David Joyce. Photo: GE Aviation

MIAMI – Among the abundance of recent aircraft retirements comes other forms of retirement. The towel is not being thrown in by a legendary machine, but a legendary person.

David L. Joyce has contributed to the Aviation branch of General Electric for 40 years. The company announced yesterday he will be retiring.

Joyce’s early years

Joyce joined GE in 1980 and helped design and develop commercial and military engines until 1995. During this time GE completed first runs for some of their most successful engines.

PowerplantYear introducedNotable applications
GE901993Large portion of the 777-200/300 fleet
F1101980sF14 F15 and F16
GE381980sCH-53K [Largest helicopter
in the us military]
Notable engine types produced during Joyce’s time on the development/design team

It should also be noted that the famous GE36 engine was developed 5 years into Joyce joining GE’s design and development team. The GE36 was a unique hybrid between a turbofan and turboprop, otherwise known as an unducted fan.

The engine was never successful but came very close to powering the proposed McDonell Douglas MD-94X and the Boeing 7J7. This was the closest an unducted fan ever came to being the power plant for a major airliner.

These first 15 years provided a good foundation for what Joyce would move to next.

GE36 Engine. Photo: Compositetoday.com

Soaring higher at the turn of the century

After leaving the design and development team in 1995, Joyce worked to become a Six Sigma Master Black Belt for the GE aviation engineering division.

According to the company’s website, the Six Sigma framework was, “developed as a kind of quality control especially for large scale manufacturing companies.”

After obtaining 4 more years of experience with the engineering division, Joyce was promoted in 1998 to General Manager of the Customer and Product Support organization (CPS).

As the GM of CPS Joyce oversaw the support effort for over 19,000 GE/CFM engines and communicated with 500+ airlines.

Joyce served in this position through the early 2000s until he was promoted to the General Manager of the Small Commercial Engine Operation. He saw massive successes during this time.

His most notable achievements were winning the bid to power the ARJ21, and overseeing certification for the E170, E175, and CRJ900 engines.

The ARJ21-700. GNU FDL.

Rough waters for Joyce and GE Aviation

Coming off of his success in the early 2000s, Joyce was promoted to Vice President and General Manager of the Commercial Engine Operation in 2003. And five years later in 2008, he was named the President and CEO of GE Aviation.

Being promoted in Q2 2008, it was only a matter of months before the stock market would crash and hinder many American businesses.

More recently, the 737MAX crisis wreaked havoc on the aviation industry and GE Aviation specifically. This is due to the fact that CFM [a joint venture between GE and Safran] is the sole provider of the MAX’s engines.

To make matters even worse, as we all know, Covid-19 put much of the industry at a standstill with a slow outlook on recovery.

A Boeing 737 MAX 8 airliner lifts off for its first flight on January 29, 2016 in Renton, Washington. Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images.

A change amid uncertain times

With the industry hurting, entire fleets were grounded worldwide, and due to its recently unimpressive stock performance, GE needed change. It may be that Joyce stepping down after 12 years is the change that is needed.

But while he leaves GE at a low point, it is important to appreciate all that Joyce has contributed to the company over the past 40 years.

Some of his decisions and achievements [like powering the ARJ21] will help keep GE Aviation successful long after he is gone.