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GE Aviation opens new plant in Huntsville

A view of the Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama just after sunset. STOCK

GE Aviation opened a new factory in Huntsville on Wednesday.

The new factory will be the only U.S. location to produce unique materials used to manufacture ceramic components poised to revolutionize jet propulsion. Gov. Kay Ivey was at the grand opening.

“Alabama’s contribution to the aerospace industry continues to grow as we celebrate the grand opening of @GEAviation Huntsville today!” Ivey said on Twitter. “This factory is one-of-kind with it being America’s 1st center for mass-producing SiC materials used to manufacture CMCs. No better home than AL!”

“During today’s grand opening, I was glad to join some 90 employees who are already working at this Huntsville plant,” Ivey said. “At peak production, we’ll see even more people at work. @GEAviation expects to eventually employ around 300 at this complex. Between @GEAviation’s location in Auburn AND this new Huntsville facility, Alabama is making a major impact on GE’s production. In turn, Alabamians are having a great impact on the entire world.”

“Once again, the state of Alabama made economic history today,” Economic Developer Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter. “GE Aviation’s newest advanced materials factory complex, one of only two of its kind in the world, will produce state-of-the-art, lightweight, heat-resistant materials that will revolutionize jet propulsion.”

Nicole Jones added, “We are thankful for GE Aviation’s investment in our community. GE Aviation’s 250,000 square foot plant with 90 current employees and potentially 300 at full production reaffirms our state’s leadership in the aerospace industry and competitiveness in the global marketplace.”

The GE Aviation factory complex in Huntsville is comprised of two adjacent factories standing on 100 acres, where silicon carbide (SiC) materials will be mass produced. The plants are critical in enabling GE Aviation to produce ceramic matrix composites (CMC) components in large volume. CMCs have ultra-lightweight properties and can withstand extremely high temperatures, making them an ideal material for use in the hottest portions of jet engines.

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“After years of research and testing, GE Aviation and our partners have cracked the code on mass producing CMC material,” GE Aviation executive Mike Kauffman said. “The impact of these materials will be felt around the globe.”

Both Ivey and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle are candidates for governor in the June 5 Republican Primary.

“Glad to have the Governor back in Huntsville for another ribbon cutting,” Battle said on Facebook. “GE Aviation is doing something here that you won’t find anyone else in the world. And they chose Huntsville as the place to make it happen.”

Production is projected to begin at the facility in the fourth quarter of 2018. Investment in the project has already exceeded $150 million and is expected to reach $200 million.

One factory will produce SiC ceramic fiber, the raw material used to make the unidirectional CMC tape being produced in the neighboring factory. The CMC tape will be used to fabricate CMC components for jet engines and land-based gas turbines.

Demand for CMCs is expected to grow tenfold over the next decade driven by rising jet engine production rates.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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