How long is 91,000 years? Go back that far in the history of the earth and the Sahara was a wet and fertile plateau. It’s also the cumulative amount of time that the world’s most hardest-working jet engine, the CFM56, has spent in the air since its first commercial flight on a DC-8 Super 70 passenger jet in 1981.

CFM International, at the time a brand-new joint venture between GE Aviation and Safran Aircraft Engines of France, developed the engine in the 1970s. Since then, the company has delivered almost 30,000 of the engines to more than 550 airlines, with plans to add 1,700 more this year. Today they power tens of thousands of Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 single-aisle passenger jets, the kind that ferry the majority of fliers on flights shorter than four hours. “There are more than 2,400 CFM56-powered aircraft in the air at any given time,” says Jean-Paul Ebanga, CFM’s president and CEO.

*Cover image: pilot and photographer Adam Senatori captured this image of a CFM56-powered Boeing P-8 Poseidon at the 2013 Dubai Air Show.

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