New business jet engine in the works at Snecma

 - September 25, 2006, 6:04 AM

The French engine manufacturer Snecma plans to develop an all-new engine to power new business and regional jets, the company announced last month. The core engine demonstrator, called the SM-X, is expected to yield a powerplant that produces between 8,500 and 10,000 pounds of thrust, if Snecma goes ahead with the full development program. Ground testing of the core is set for the second half of next year.

Although the company, which is part of the Safran group, plans to lead the program, it is inviting risk-sharing partners to shoulder some of the development costs, which are likely to be at least $120 million.

Snecma would not commit to a market-entry date for the engine, however. “The different development phases for the SM-X will proceed according to the aircraft manufacturers’ requirements,” a spokesman told AIN. Engine development programs typically take five to 10 years, so the new engine probably would not be available until 2011 at the earliest.

The company’s primary target for the SM-X is business aircraft. “The typical opportunity will be a large cabin/long-range aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight between 50,000 and 60,000 pounds,” it stated. “The engine design will also meet the needs of 40- to 60-seat regional jets,” the company said.

Despite competition from General Electric, Rolls-Royce and Honeywell, Snecma is confident the engine will find a niche, because it will be a new design and have performance advantages. “The technologies used on the SM-X will deliver 5 to 15 percent lower specific fuel consumption as well as at least 25 percent better climb and cruise thrust than current engines,” Snecma predicted. “Today there is no state-of-the-art engine in this thrust segment in terms of architecture, fuel burn and costs of ownership.”

To achieve its performance goals, Snecma is drawing on two sources: its extensive low-pressure system experience with the CFM56 civil turbofan, which in its various guises has accumulated more than 300 million hours of flying time, and its high- pressure expertise from its military engine programs and the DEM21 core demonstrator. The latter is at the heart of the 13,000- to 18,000-pound thrust SM-146 turbofan Snecma is developing with Russia’s NPO Saturn for the new Russian Regional Jet.

Unusually, the SM-X core will feature a single-stage centrifugal com- pressor coupled with a four-stage axial compressor. Snecma will no doubt consult sister company Turbomeca for its small engines centrifugal compressor experience from the helicopter powerplant field.

The company will make a decision about launching the SM-X as a full-scale program after the core demonstrator tests and discussions with airframers. “We have already presented the concept to all aircraft manufacturers in the regional and business aviation sectors studying large cabin/ long-range aircraft, which means most of the business jet manufacturers,” said Snecma. “All have provided a very positive reaction to our intention of launching a brand-new centerline engine concept targeted at the super midsize market segment.”