The wide expanse of the Manitoba prairie makes a good home for GE’s new GE9X. After all, the biggest jet engine on the planet needs a fair bit of elbow room.

A mammoth at 3.5 meters in diameter, the GE9X engine is poised to begin certification testing and will make its way to GE’s Aircraft Engine Testing, Research and Development Centre (TRDC) in Winnipeg later this year, to see how it holds up to the harsh winter conditions of the Canadian prairie.

But before the tests for this massive engine can get underway, the Winnipeg facility needs to scale up and make room. That’s why GE recently invested $20 million (USD) to replace the existing infrastructure with bigger, better equipment, including a larger wind tunnel, engine hoist system and thrust frame.

Designed for Boeing’s upcoming 777X, the GE9X team leveraged advanced manufacturing techniques, like 3D printing, which enabled them to create intricate internal designs that are so complex, they would have been impossible just a few years ago.

The new engine also features space-age materials like ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) that are ultra-strong, lightweight, and heat resistant. The end is result is an engine that’s bigger, lighter, and more fuel efficient with fewer emissions.

Testing at GE’s testing facility in Peebles, Ohio have already established that the GE9X can generate more than 100,000 pounds of thrust while consuming less fuel, making it the new benchmark for efficiency.

The testing in Winnipeg this coming winter represents another necessary milestone for the new engine. While the Winnipeg facility can test engines for hail, dust and bird ingestion, its real specialty is ice certification testing. This testing is essential for understanding how engines withstand ice build-up.

“The ice certification program is what every engine under development has to go through before it can go on the wing of an aircraft,” says Donna McLeod, GE staff engineer at GE Aviation’s Winnipeg Test, Research and Development Centre. Since it opened almost six years ago, the test site has established itself as one of the leading cold-weather test centers for jet engines in the world.