Safran Mum on Silvercrest, Ramping Up on CFM Leaps

 - February 28, 2018, 9:06 AM

Safran hasn’t been very talkative about the Silvercrest program, a new-generation engine selected to power the now-canceled Dassault Falcon 5X, and the company provided little information about the program in its financial results, released February 27. The engine suffered delays during development, prompting a three-year delay for the Falcon 5X. Dassault decided in December to abandoned its 5X project (and so, the Silvercrest) and today announced the Falcon 6X as a replacement, powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada. Discussions are in progress between Dassault and Safran about eventual penalties, as Safran passed €654 million (US$798 million) of depreciation for amortization in 2015 for the Silvercrest program.

However, the Silvercrest is still on tap to equip the Cessna Citation Hemisphere, with a 12,000-pound-thrust version. First flight of the aircraft is expected in 2019. "We are working with Cessna to deliver a mature engine to meet their flight envelope," said Philippe Petitcolin, CEO of Safran. Safran also hopes to add new customers in the coming years, as soon as the Hemisphere program is on track.

The company had some good news to report in the air transport sector, announcing that it expects to more than double the number of CFM Leap engines to be delivered in 2018, with at least 1,100 units. In 2017, CFM, a joint-venture between Safran and GE, produced 459 engines, consistent with the company's target. But in answer to an Airbus request for an increase from 60 to about a 70 shipsets of engines per month, Petitcolin said: "I’m not sure that our supply chain is yet prepared for this rate, and it would be better to postpone such a decision." According to Petitcolin, raising the rate from 60 to 70 would require around two years of implementation, not to mention additional investments. Regarding the problems of industrial maturity in 2017 that caused a slip in deliveries of Leap engines, Petitcolin said, "Those problems are behind us. We have worked hard with our partners to solve them."

"Leap is still a very big commercial success and we are in the middle of the ramp-up," said Petitcolin. Safran and GE aim to deliver at least 2,000 Leap engines per year up to 2020, to meet the forcast monthly rate of production of 60 Airbus A320neos and 57 Boeing 737 Maxes, which are also Leap-powered (the engine also powers the Chinese Comac C919).

Safran delivered strong financials results for 2017 with an increase of 4.7 percent in adjusted revenues at €16.5 billion (US$20.13 billion)—up 7.4 percent on an organic basis. Adjusted recurring operating income grew 2.7 percent at €2.47 billion (US$3.01 billion)—15 percent of total revenues—as adjusted net income rose 45.7 percent with €2.62 billion (US$3.2 billion), including the contribution from the sale of  the Security branch. Acquisition of Zodiac Aerospace, which concluded in May 2017, is almost complete, with 88 percent of the shares and voting rights. The first guidance for the new group Safran-Zodiac will be released in early September with the publication of First Half 2018 results.