GE Aviation confirmed investigations are underway, after an "anomaly" was detected in a GE9X engine undergoing predelivery factory tests.
GE9X General Manager Ted Ingling told Aviation Week that it's too soon to say if the problem will affect flight tests.
"During a factory test an engine gave us a signal about its health," he added. "We had an anomaly in the compressor and we halted the run."
He also explained the anomaly is a mechanical issue with the engine's compressor and not an aerodynamic issue affecting its performance.
A durability issue in the GE9X's compressor was found in 2018 that caused a delay, Aviation Week pointed out.
The GE engine issues come as Boeing has reportedly held negotiations to sell 100 twin-aisle jets to China. Both the 787 Dreamliner and the 777-9 are under consideration, though talks have focused on the 777-9.
Such a deal could be worth about $30 billion at list prices, though airlines typically get big discounts on large orders.
Shaq + Kobe = GE9X
The GE9X is set to be the biggest jet engine in history. It's wider than the fuselage of a Boeing 737, or as GE puts it, it's "so large that Shaquille O'Neal would fit inside it with Kobe Bryant sitting on his shoulders."
The GE9X features the largest fan ever produced, a full 11 feet in diameter. It's also the quietest, most fuel-efficient, lowest-emission jet engine from General Electric ever. It will deliver 10% less fuel burn than current models, and a 5% cut in fuel use vs. any twin-aisle engine, thanks in part to 3D-printing technologies.
But while the GE9X will be the biggest in size, it will not be the most powerful. The GE9X delivers 100,000 pounds of thrust, though a predecessor with 127,500 pounds of thrust remains the most powerful jet engine.
GE Stock Holds Up In Pullback
Shares of General Electric rose 0.3% to 9.92 on the stock market today, holding just above the 50-day moving average. Dow Jones giant Boeing climbed 0.5% with shares still stuck below the 50-day line, a marker of short-term support. Fellow Dow Jones stock and GE engine rival United Technologies (UTX) edged up 0.3%.
The relative strength lines for both GE stock and Boeing stock have been moving sideways for the past few months after rallying at the start of the year. The RS line, tracking performance against the S&P 500, is the blue line in the chart below
GE Aviation Adds To Woes
The Boeing 777x is the latest incarnation of Boeing's long-range, widebody 777 family. Besides new GE9X engines, it's expected to feature new composite wings with folding wingtips, larger windows, a wider cabin, new lighting and improved architecture.
For General Electric, the GE9X jet engine issue adds to a growing pile of woes.
The restructuring conglomerate calls fixing its power unit and debt problem the top priorities. It will then turn its attention to the troubled financial services unit.
GE's aviation unit is seen by some analysts as the "crown jewel" of its vast portfolio of businesses.
But the business has seen margins shrink while Boeing 737 Max groundings after two deadly crashes are a new risk.