Paris Air Show

CFM Rate Hikes Limited by Timing, Not Numbers

 - June 14, 2015, 12:40 PM
According to officials, the sky is the only limit on production rates for CFM’s Leap engine. The company churned out a record 1,560 turbofans last year, topping the record number of 1,502 set the year before.

Now preparing to build more than 1,800 engines a year by 2020, CFM will place no “theoretical limits” on the number of Leap engines it could ultimately build to meet the demands of Airbus and Boeing, CFM executive vice president Francois Bastin told a gathering of reporters at his company’s air show chalet on Saturday. Boeing and Airbus have each talked of the possibility of increasing rates on their respective narrowbodies to as many as 60 airplanes a month by the turn of the decade, but a successful transition will largely depend on the ability of its suppliers to keep pace.

“Everything is possible with the right amount of time,” said Bastin. “So it’s a matter of getting the timing and the number...it’s not necessarily the number that is important, it is the slope [at which production accelerates.]”

Appearing alongside Bastin and CFM chief executive Jean-Paul Ebanga, executive vice president Allen Paxson stressed the need for stability in a high-volume production line. “I don’t know if we’ve made an assessment of how high it could ultimately go,” said Paxson. “There are restrictions on how fast we can ramp up. We can’t go from zero to 1,800 engines in a day, or in a year. There has to be some stability in the process.”

Paxson added that CFM has already stretched itself to reach its current rate of production. Last year it delivered a record 1,560 engines, after another record 2014 campaign, during which it shipped 1,502. Ebanga noted that CFM56 production has increased every year for the past ten years, and that the transition to production of the Leap family marks the first time in industry history that a manufacturer will have introduced a new product while peak production rates of its existing product persist.

“Our constraint is going to be how fast we can bring the new-build materials up a rate curve,” explained Paxson, who conceded that CFM has held discussion with Boeing and Airbus over rate increases. “They have had conversations with us about higher rates. We’re still working on that...but we don’t feel we should comment on that now because I think we still have some work to do to understand what they really need from us.”