The monster engines that power Qatar Airways' flights to Doha are beasts. They need to be.

Lifting the plane with the longest range in the world take the most powerful engine in commercial aviation. To cover the ultra-long distances the Boeing 777-LR (which stands for Longer Range) must carry vast quantities of fuel.

And to get a fully fuelled and passenger-laden plane of around 350 tonnes off the ground, the two GE90 engines generate close to 110,000lb of thrust or about 100,000 horsepower each.

The engines are massive - close to the cabin width of a Boeing 737, weigh more than eight tonnes each and cost around $35m apiece.

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On a 17-hour flight between Auckland and Doha they will chug up to an estimated 170,000 litres of fuel.

At takeoff thrust each engine is reportedly gobbling up to two million cubic feet of air a minute.

When GE developed the engines in the 1990s just one of them was able to keep a Boeing 747 (normally a four engine plane) aloft during trials. Rocks weighing 200kg piled up behind the GE90 on the ground were tossed around like pebbles.

During stationery test bed work tonnes of water, ice and dead bird carcuses were shot into trial engines to see how they reacted.

The GE90 fan blade's curved design makes it larger, lighter and more aerodynamic than traditional titanium blades for reduced engine weight and lower fuel burn.

 The General Electric GE90 is a family of high-bypass turbofan aircraft engines.
The General Electric GE90 is a family of high-bypass turbofan aircraft engines.

General Electric says one example of the blade from a later model even made it to New York's Museum of Modern Art in 2007, recognised for its "cutting-edge engineering, design and beauty."

The Boeing 777-200LR was dubbed the "Worldliner" during its development in the 1990s and established a world record flight of 21,601km between Hong Kong and flying eastbound across the North Pacific Ocean, across North America and then over the Atlantic to London.

The 14,535km scheduled flights of around 17 hours northbound to Doha are a bit of a hop compared to the 2005 marathon. The 35 passengers on that trial flight were on board for 22 hours and 42 minutes.

General Electric is now developing a new engine for the next model Boeing 777s, the 777-8, a bigger plane capable of flying 16,110km with up to 375 passengers on board.

• Aviation writer Grant Bradley will travel on Qatar Airways' longest flight this week. Look out for his take on it.