CFM International on October 9 achieved the first flight of its new Leap engine when an example of the new turbofan took off on a modified Boeing 747 flying testbed from GE Aviation’s flight-test operations center in Victorville, Calif. The new series of turbofans is set to power the Airbus A320neo, the Boeing 737 Max and China’s Comac C919 new-generation narrowbodies.
CFM International LEAP-X
Singapore-based aircraft leasing company BOC Aviation said it was responding to Asian airline customers that are expanding or replacing their older aircraft by placing its largest-ever order with Boeing.
The technology stakes are high for the GE9X engine that will power Boeing’s new 777X twinjet, but GE Aviation believes its big bet on the weight savings to be delivered by unprecedented use of composites is about to pay off. The U.S. engine maker, which currently holds orders for some 600 of the engines, is leaving nothing to chance and, with more than two years of technology maturation behind it, the company is now stepping up its test program en route to certification in 2018.
Engine manufacturer CFM International announced yesterday here at Farnborough International 2014 that American Airlines has selected its Leap-1A turbofan engine to power 100 Airbus A320neos. At list price, CFM values the engine order at $2.6 billion. The aircraft order was originally announced in July 2011 and American will begin taking delivery of the aircraft in 2017.
CFM International has begun ground testing of the first Leap-1B engine developed to power Boeing’s new 737 Max family of narrowbody airliners. The joint venture between Snecma and GE announced today that ground tests began three days ahead of schedule on June 13 and that the 23,000- to 28,000-pound-thrust turbofan already has achieved full takeoff thrust.
GE Aviation announced on March 26 that it will break ground this year on a new $100 million assembly plant in Lafayette, Ind., to produce Leap engines for narrowbody airliners as part of its CFM International joint venture with France’s Snecma. It expects the plant will create 200 jobs by 2020.
As CFM International and Pratt & Whitney progress toward the entry into service of their competing engines on the Airbus A320neo, the rival powerplant makers are at odds over which engine will deliver the best performance in terms of turbine temperatures.
CFM International is confident Comac’s C919 program is progressing on a sound basis, but the engine manufacturer does have contingency plans for the Leap-1C turbofan it has designed for the narrowbody to mitigate program risks in case further delays arise.
Engine manufacturer CFM International (Stand G23) plans to test 15 Leap engines this year as part of a development program leading to certification of the Leap-1A for the Airbus A320neo next year. Also part of the program, the Leap 1B and -1C versions are to power the upgraded Boeing 737 Max and the new Comac C919 narrowbodies, respectively. The engine’s designers promise a 15-percent fuel burn advantage over the current CFM56.
With initial running of the new Leap-1 engine on schedule in September, CFM International (CFMI) has embarked on an “unprecedented” level of testing that should involve 20 developmental units by the end of next year and seven of the remaining eight planned examples before 2016 (when a final powerplant will take part in a short exercise–possibly a Leap-1C blade-out check).
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