General Electric will start tests of an advanced compressor in 2012 aimed at a GE90 successor program dubbed the GE9X.

The plan emerges as GE sees the first glimmers of potential competition to its dominant position on the 777 in very large engines. Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney are both positioning to compete on whatever Boeing develops under its 777X studies. Rolls is developing a higher thrust Trent XWB for the revamped Airbus A350-1000 which could power a 777 successor, and Pratt is evaluating larger variants of its geared turbofan for larger widebody applications.

The GE9X plan will see an improved version of the GEnx compressor combined with a second generation of the advanced eCore (engineering core) family at the heart of the CFM Leap and Tech X engine programs. GE Aircraft Engines president David Joyce says “the next step is Gen 2 of eCore which is the GE9X.’

The compressor rig will run in 2012 says Joyce, who adds that it will have “a different pressure ratio” to the existing eCore 1. The second build of this core, incorporating a two-stage high pressure turbine, began tests in late May. A third build, scaled up for the Leap engine, will run in 2012.

The approach “allows us to constantly look at the evolution of the design, and the GE9X will be a different version,” he adds.

Joyce adds that development of potential competition from Rolls is not unexpected given GE’s original experience with the GE90 on the 777. “Our business case for the A350 always played into having two engines. We always thought a second generation would be needed for the A350-1000,” he adds.