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Originally published June 17, 2013 at 6:56 PM | Page modified June 18, 2013 at 6:46 AM

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GE adds to its string of jet engine plants in the South

Another high-tech aerospace plant went to a southern U.S. state willing to pile on incentives.

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

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At the Paris Air Show on Monday, the South won another high-tech aerospace plant.

Standing in front of a GEnx jet engine displayed in one of the exhibition halls, GE Aviation Chief Executive David Joyce announced that the company’s new plant to produce engine components from ceramic matrix composites, or CMCs, will be in Asheville, N.C.

“These are going to be the future,” Joyce said, holding a sample of a CMC component. “I guarantee you this plant will get bigger with time.”

GE’s engines for Boeing’s 737 MAX and 777X, as well as other planes, will incorporate the new material.

The plant, expected to create 52 new jobs, will be the fourth in a string of recent factory sitings in the South by GE Aviation. It follows so-called “greenfield” plants in 2010 in South Carolina, 2012 in Mississippi, and earlier this year in Alabama.

The selection of Asheville is subject to final approval of incentives from the state of North Carolina, GE said.

The company already has more than 1,300 employees in the state, at sites in Durham, West Jefferson, Wilmington and an existing machining plant in Asheville.

The new facility would be part of a larger commitment to invest $195 million across these operations through 2017.

CMCs are made from silicon-carbide ceramic fibers and ceramic resin, then enhanced with proprietary coatings and baked twice in autoclaves. The resulting pieces are extremely light and strong and can withstand very high temperatures.

GE will use them in the hot inner core of a jet engine, where temperatures run as high as 2,000 degrees.

The first use of CMCs in aviation will be to make a shroud, a component that directs exhaust gases through the high-pressure turbine, for the LEAP engine that will power Boeing’s 737 MAX and Airbus’ A320neo.

But GE plans to extend the use of CMCs in its next new engine. The GE-9X, which will power Boeing’s 777X, will use CMCs extensively in the combustion chamber.

The CMCs don’t need to be cooled with air, as do metal parts in the engine’s hot section.

Not having to divert any of the air flow to the engine’s center for cooling makes it more efficient.

County and city officials in Asheville approved more than $4 million in cash incentives for the project over the next 10 years, as well as a $15.7 million series of land-and-construction deals, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported.

A local community college will train prospective employees in a hands-on environment with state-of- the-art machinery.

GE plans to break ground on the new 125,000-square-foot facility this year and could begin hiring as early as 2014.

Dominic Gates: (206) 464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com

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