50 times to the moon and back

The CF6-50 turbofan engine that the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering received from KLM Engineering & Maintenance is a wonder of durability. With 57.000 hours under the wing, it has travelled 42 million kilometres.

While a forklift manoeuvres into position to lift the 4,5 tonne engine out of the truck and into the Airplane Hall, KLM‘s program manager Rob Duivis dishes out numbers about the engine's history and performance. Duivis has worked at KLM's engine workshop since 1975 when General Electric’s CF6 had just been introduced.

So here is an engine that weighs 4,500 kilograms, but that delivers 5.6 times as much force in thrust (235 kilo Newton). It has been in use with KLM since 2004 until 2013, and before that it was used to power an Airbus cargo plane from 1997 onwards. The use for a cargo plane explains the strange relationship between 57.000 flight hours and 26.000 starts and landings. This engine has flown a lot of short hauls.

The General Electric CF6 engine was introduced in 1971. As a workhorse of the aviation, the CF6 has, in half a dozen of variants, powered amongst others the Airbus A300 (twin engine), the DC-10 (three engines) and the 747 Classic (four engines).

Initially, the engines had to be serviced after every 2,000 flight hours. Nowadays, the engines remain ‘under the wing’ for 25,000 hours or the equivalent of 5-7 years of regular use. The remarkable increase of operational hours between major overhauls is due to a spate of 1,500 service bulletins. Those are continuous updates in the engines to improve its durability.

Even now, after having travelled the equivalent of 50 times to the moon and back, the CF6-50 engine is still serviceable and could be kept in service. However, the engine has fallen out of demand, says Duivis. That's why KLM decided to donate this aviation veteran to the TU Delft where students can get up close to it. Duivis hopes the engine will bring theory to live for the students.

Next Wednesday, December 2, 2015, a team from KLM will officially hand over the engine to Aeronautical Engineering's Dean Professor Hester Bijl and Flight Performance and Propulsion researcher Dr. Aravind Gangoli Rao.

After the ceremony, a joint lunch lecture will take place in Lecture Hall B by KLM's vice-president of Engine Services Mr. P. Chün and TU Delft associate professor Dr. Gangoli Rao on sustainable airplane engines. Interested students and staff can enlist for the lecture and a free lunch via the form.