When it comes to making a new aircraft, engine design is at the top of the list for any manufacturer. Powerful and efficient engines can allow aircraft to travel longer distances with a lower fuel burn, a key factor for airlines. So which are the most powerful aircraft engines today, and what planes are they found on?
As expected, the most powerful commercial plane engines are found on widebody aircraft. The most powerful engines are also found on twin-engine jets rather than four-engine ones, due to the need for more thrust on twin-engine planes. With that, let’s jump into the list!
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General Electric GE9X
The current leader in the engine market in the GE9X. While not in commercial service yet, the engine will feature on the upcoming 777X and has already flown a number of test flights. The engine is based on the design of the GE90, which is found on the older 777.
The GE9X can provide 134,300 lbf (pound-force) of thrust at maximum, an impressive 5% increase over the older GE90-115B. The use of composite, carbon-fiber materials has allowed the engine to be 10% more fuel-efficient than its predecessor without a drastic increase in size.
Although, for now, the engine is only certified for 105,000 lbf of maximum thrust, leaving open the chance of more powerful 777X variants in the future.
The first GE9X will likely go into service in 2022, a year-long delay caused by the current downturn, with the delivery of the first 777X to Lufthansa. While the engine did face some challenges during its development, the engine is now ready to go whenever Boeing rolls out the planes.
General Electric GE90 series
Coming in at second place is another GE engine, the GE90, which can be found on the popular 777 aircraft lineup. The engine came into service in 1995 with the British Airways 777-200. Multiple variants of the GE90 are in service. The most powerful ones are the GE90-115B and -110B which are found on the 777-300ER and 777-200LR and 777F respectively.
The GE90-115B can offer an impressive 127,900 lbf of maximum thrust, although it is certified at 115,000 lbf (hence the name). The improved efficiency of these variants (over the GE90-94B) allowed airlines to launch new long-haul routes such as Doha to Auckland, and expand services.
The GE90 remains one of the most commercially successful widebody engines to date, with over 2,500 orders for the type. As the base for the new 9X, it’s clear that the GE90 has been an important development in engine history.
Pratt & Whitney PW4000-112
Pratt & Whitney makes it to the list of most powerful engines in the world with its popular PW4000 series, which is also found on the A330, 767, and 747, was also re-engineered for the 777.
The PW400-112 offered up to 99,000 lbf of maximum thrust, however, it remains certified for 90,000 lbf. However, the PW4000s prevalence and reliability made the engine attractive for those already using the engine in other aircraft.
The PW4000-112 went to be re-engineered to fit the Airbus A380, as a part of the Engine Alliance GP7000 engine with GE. While the engine might be prevalent today, it continues to live in hundreds of different aircraft globally.
Rolls-Royce Trent XWB
Next on the list is the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB, exclusively powering the popular Airbus A350 model. There are two variants of this engine in service, the XWB-84 and XWB-97, which power the A350-900s and A350-1000, respectively. The engine came into service in 2015 with Qatar Airways on the first A350.
The XWB-97 is the more powerful of the two variants and offers 97,000 lbf of maximum thrust, as the name suggests. The Trent XWB is also considered one of the most efficient engines ever built, which allows the A350 to start a new generation of ultra-long-haul flights such as Project Sunrise and Singapore Airlines’ New York to Singapore service.
The XWB-84, with 84,000 lbf of thrust, which is found on the A350-900 family, is the one used on ultra-long-haul routes due to its unparalleled fuel efficiency. It’s clear that this engine has reshaped the long-haul market and will continue to be refined as point-to-point travel becomes more prevalent.
Rolls-Royce Trent 800
The Trent 800 is Rolls-Royce’s engine offering for the Boeing 777. The engine first came into service with Thai Airways in 1996, the last of the three engine providers.
The Trent 800 featured an impressive 95,000 lbf of maximum thrust, making it one of the most powerful engines at the time. Rolls-Royce also boasted that the Trent 800 was the lightest of all three 777 engine options, increasing aircraft efficiency.
While the type did hold an impressive 40% of the market, RR did not offer variants for the 777-300ER and -200LR, which went exclusively to GE. This meant the airline did not see too many orders after the new variants of the 777 came into service.
As you may have noticed, a number of popular engines such as the GEnx and Trent 1000, are not on the list of the most powerful engines. This is because while these engines do provide very efficient power to the 787, they do not have the most thrust that other engines have seen. However, these engines do provide unparalleled efficiency to the 787, which is the aircraft’s objective.
Similarly, four-engine aircraft also have multiple high-efficiency engines rather than higher thrust engines. The most recent quadjet, the 747-8 comes with four GEnx engines, with the older A380 comes with four GP7000 engines (with a maximum thrust of 74,700 lbf).
What do you think about the list? Which engine do you prefer while flying? Let us know in the comments!