CFM faces some uncertainties surrounding its Leap-1C turbofans for the Comac C919 narrowbody, although the engine program schedule calls for that variant of the three-member Leap family to go to test first.
“Flying the C919 in 2014 is important for Comac,” emphasized CFM executive v-p Cédric Goubet. Therefore, plans call for a Leap-1C to run in the second half of 2013 and fly on a testbed less than one year later, according to the Snecma-GE venture’s timetable. The -1C uses the same turbomachinery found in the -1A, the variant designed to power the Airbus A320neo; the only differences involve installation.
Despite the aggressive development plan, CFM executives declined to estimate rates for the Leap-1C’s first years of production, beginning in 2016. They referred only to Comac’s forecast of 2,000 aircraft over 20 years. AIN understands that CFM counts only -1A and -1B (for the Boeing 737 MAX) production when it refers to, for example, the combined 1,600 Leaps it plans to manufacture in 2019.
Moreover, CFM and Avic Commercial Aircraft Engine Co. (ACAE) signed a memorandum of understanding in 2009 to establish a Leap-1C final assembly line in China. Asked about the MoU, CFM officials said the would-be partners have yet to devise a firm plan. “We have a couple of years before we make a decision,” they added. Comac has chosen the Leap as “the sole Western powerplant”–including its nacelle and accompanying equipment–for the C919. But Chinese authorities do count on their aerospace industry to eventually develop an indigenous turbofan for the twinjet.
Western aerospace executives acknowledge that their Chinese counterparts show strong motivation, employ skilled engineers and stick to a clear strategy. They stress, however, the Chinese struggle with coordinating a large organization. Also, making a decision seems to take a lot of time because every Chinese manager tends to defer accountability to his or her own chief.
Thirteen customers have ordered a total of 330 C919s.