The World's Most Powerful Jet Engines
January 11, 2019
The technology behind jet engines is one of the world’s most captivating engineering discoveries. From the most simple, primitive versions dating back to the first century AD, to Chinese fireworks and the advancement of propeller propulsion, this seemingly simple idea has fascinated engineers from all over the world. While straightforward in theory, the application of centuries of research at the highest level is creating remarkable technological achievements that push the boundaries of long-distance travel.
In the multibillion-dollar industry of air travel, some of the great engineering minds have worked to create the most efficient and reliable engines. However, there are also some incredible machines whose power is almost incomprehensible in real terms. Take a look at some of the most powerful jet engines in the world.
General Electric GE90 115B
Aerospace is big business, and in the world of jet engines, there are few companies as big as General Electric. GE is one of the largest business conglomerates in the world with an aviation department worth billions of pounds, which is in no small part down to the GE90 family of engines.
The technology of the GE90 has roots that can be traced back to NASA in the 1970s. The engine itself launched in 1990 as a brand-new engine designed specifically for transoceanic travel. It quickly became the engine of choice for the Boeing 777’s long-range aircraft and has remained one of Boeing’s engines of choice. The GE90’s most powerful variant, 115B, holds the record for the most powerful jet engine in production. It inadvertently generated an incredible 127,900lb of thrust during a heavy stress test in the early 2000s – a feat that has remained unbeaten ever since.
Pratt & Whitney PW4000 112
One of Pratt & Whitney’s most successful ever products, the PW4000 is a powerful high-bypass turbofan jet engine, designed to be used as twinjets on long-distance flights. Variants have been in production since the 1980s, and it was a long-term rival of General Electric’s GE90 until Boeing awarded GE the unique rights to supply its most powerful engines. Still, the PW4000 has been powering different types of Boeing aircraft up to the present day and is frequently seen on domestic and international flights.
The most powerful version of the PW4000 is the 112, referring to the inch diameter of the engine’s fan. In use since 1995, the 112 can generate over 90,000lb of thrust and is used on specific models of the Boeing 777.
Rolls Royce Trent XWB
A name more synonymous with luxurious cars, Rolls Royce has shot to success in the aviation industry over recent decades. In the 1980s, they were barely scratching the surface of the aviation market, but that all changed when they sensed an opening in the twin-engine market. With considerable backing from the British government, Rolls Royce developed a jet engine using a three-spool system as opposed to the more common two spools. Over time, variants of this engine would contest with GE and Pratt & Whitney for the Boeing contracts. Nowadays, many of the Trent engines are used on Airbus aircraft, particularly by Middle-Eastern and Asian people carriers.
The XWB variation of this engine was created specifically for Airbus and has proven to be one of Rolls Royce’s most successful jet engines. Mainly used on the A350 XWB aircraft utilised primarily by Qatar Airways, the engine creates over 95,000lb of thrust and is one of the most efficient jet engines in the world.
General Electric GE9X
Many of these engines have been in use for many years, which makes the current development of General Electric’s next great engine all the more exciting. In production alongside the Boeing 777X and expected to be ready for use in 2020, the GE9X takes much of the technology currently utilised by the GE90 mentioned above. However, its larger fan and improved pressure ratio will allow it to increase its fuel efficiency. Despite its efficiency-focused development, it is expected the engine will have a take-off thrust of 105,000lbs which could rival even the strongest GE models.
These three companies dominate a large proportion of the aerospace engine market, and it will be exciting to watch as they compete for the future of aviation! If you’re interested in learning more about the fundamental technologies that go into engine development such as exhaust heat wrap, why not take a look at our guide to the power of Formula One engines?