Because principles and challenges in turbosuperchargers apply to gas turbines as well, GE was a logical choice to build America’s first jet engine.
In 1941, the U.S. Army Air Corps picked GE’s Lynn, Massachusetts, plant to build a jet engine based on the design of Britain’s Sir Frank Whittle. Six months later, on April 18, 1942, GE engineers successfully ran the I-A engine.
In October 1942, at Muroc Dry Lake, California, two I-A engines powered the historic first flight of a Bell XP-59A Airacomet aircraft, launching the United States into the Jet Age. The thrust rating of the I-A was 1,250 pounds; the thrust rating of the GE90-115B is more than 90 times as great at 115,000 pounds.
The I-A engine incorporated a centrifugal-flow compressor, as did the increasingly more powerful engines developed by GE during the next two years, culminating in the J33 engine, which was rated at 4,000 pounds of thrust. The J33 powered the U.S. Army Air Corps’ first operational jet fighter, the P-80 Shooting Star, to a world’s speed record of 620 miles per hour in 1947. Before the end of that year, a GE J35 engine powered a Douglas D-558-1 Skystreak to a record-breaking 650 miles per hour. The J35 was the first GE turbojet engine to incorporate an axial-flow compressor–the type of compressor used in all GE engines since then.
However, the Air Corps, concerned about disrupting supplies of turbosuperchargers, placed production of GE’s jet engines with other manufacturers. GE then set about designing another. The resulting J47 put GE back in the business of building jet engines. But demand for the J47 to power almost all the new front-line military aircraft, particularly the F-86 Sabre Jet, meant the Lynn plant could not keep up. GE needed a second factory.
GE selected a federally owned plant near Cincinnati, Ohio, where Wright Aeronautical piston engines had been produced during World War II. GE formally opened the plant on February 28, 1949, with the second J47 production line, to complement the original line at Lynn. Later, the plant would be known as Evendale and would become GE Aviation’s world headquarters.
With the Korean War boosting demand, the J47 became the world’s most produced gas turbine. More than 35,000 J47 engines were delivered by the end of the 1950s. That engine scored two major firsts: it was the first turbojet certified for civil use by the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Administration- and the first to use an electronically controlled afterburner to boost its thrust.
The war created a boom environment. Employment at GE’s Evendale facility experienced a- ten-fold increase, from 1,200 to 12,000 people in 20 months), requiring a tripling of manufacturing space. In 1951, GE announced that the Evendale plant would be one of the world’s truly great jet engine centers in peace and war. In 1954, the Evendale manufacturing complex, virtually empty just six years earlier, was designated as GE’s production facility for large jet engines while its sister plant in Lynn, Massachusetts, focused on developing and producing small jet engines.
This post comes from GE aviation webpage.