Rumors flew last week that GE faced the prospect of having to redesign its cumbustor and that the engine is in such deep doo doo that it would be off the test stand for at least six months.
GE's usually responsive spokesman, Rick Kennedy, was on vacation last week (after all, they made it through the defense authorization bill....) but he did find time late Friday afternoon to tell me that he was "positive no analysis has been done."
Then Loren Thompson, uber-source for many defense reporters, put out an item this morning summarizing the rumors: "The repeated failure of the GE engine has given rise to rumors that its combustor -- the vital component that burns a mixture of fuel and compressed air -- will have to be redesigned. One version of the rumor has GE giving up all its testing time at the Air Force's Arnold Engineering Development Center until next April -- the kind of lengthy delay typically associated with a design problem. If true, this would put the GE team in a financial bind, because it has already expended 70% of funding for the current phase of development."
Loren's comments were so close to what I heard last week that our sources might be the same... including the claim that the GE engine has "only managed to run for 52 hours and had four failures. At the same stage in development, the competing Pratt & Whitney engine had undergone 700 hours of SDD testing with no failures."
After Loren went public, stuff started hitting fans. Congressional aides began pressing GE for answers. One said the company had to come up with answers today.
All this, of course, came after a routine inspection in early October revealed “dings and nicks” on the turbine blades, forcing GE/Rolls Royce to pull the engine off its test stand.
So far no one has hear back from GE. As soon as someone hears something solid, we'll let you know.