Leap 1C Engine Tests Continue as Comac's C919 Takes Shape

 - November 10, 2014, 4:35 PM
CFM's Leap 1C engine, which recently began flight testing, features Nexcelle's integrated propulsion system.

The Leap 1C engine developed by CFM International for the Comac C919 narrowbody has completed almost 100 hours of flight testing on the Boeing 747 operated by joint venture partner GE Aviation. The turbofan features the integrated propulsion system (IPS) developed for the new Chinese airliner by Nexcelle, which is a joint venture between GE’s Middle River Aircraft Systems division and Safran’s Aircelle. Leap flight testing began on October 9 at GE’s Victorville, Calif. facility. 

Overall, the Leap engine has now completed more than 1,500 hours of ground and flight tests as it heads for initial certification in 2015. The Leap 1A turbofan will power Airbus's new A320neo and the Leap 1B variant will be used for Boeing's 737 Max. On November 11, China's Zhejiang Loong Airlines signed an agreement with CFM--a joint venture between Snecma and GE--to buy Leap 1A engines for nine A320neos.

At C919 quarterly program review meeting held in late October, Comac told its partners that the first full prototype will be completely assembled by the end of December 2014. The airframer, which has had several delays with the program, now wants to roll out the C919 by mid-2015 and achieve a first flight by the end of the year. “They have had some challenges with the program, but they are now very close to being on track and are progressing quite well,” Nexcelle president Michel Abella told AIN just ahead of this week’s Airshow China in Zhuhai.

Nexcelle’s primary goal for Leap’s new IPS is to lower operators’ direct operating costs by contributing to improved performance of the engines and delivering improved reliability. For instance, overall installed weight has been reduced through using new pylon designs.

Nexcelle’s new Panache thrust reverser for the Leap-1C IPS nacelle system features the company’s new O-Duct design, which replaces two D-shaped doors in a traditional reverser. The O-Duct design is more efficient due to the removal of the links that cut the reverser’s flow path in two with the D-shaped doors.

In the new unit, the thrust-blocking doors are located around the full inner circumference of the composite O-Duct structure. They are deployed by new mechanisms attached to the forward frame and are fully contained inside the O-Duct structure when stowed, avoiding any interference with fan flow.

Aircelle’s SAVI joint venture with China’s Xi’an Aircraft International Corporation is now building some 2,000 blocker doors each year for the thrust reversers used on the CFM56-5A and CFM56-5B engines that power Airbus A320 airliners. The Shanghai-based operation was established in 2011 to produce and assemble nacelle components and may yet become involved in manufacturing of the IPS units for the Leap 1C engine.

Meanwhile, Nexcelle is also developing an IPS for GE’s new Passport engine for business aircraft. The powerplant has been selected by Bombardier for its new Global 7000 and 8000 business jets. The Passport is due to make its first flight later this year.