Boeing takes big LEAP forward on new 737

Boeing has announced that its reengined 737 Max twinjet will be powered by the LEAP-1B engine made by CFM International (the equal joint venture of Snecma and GE). We asked CFM President and CEO Jean-Paul Ebanga to review the reasons for this latest major business win by the Safran group subsidiary.

What are the main reasons for Boeing's selection of LEAP to reengine its 737 family?
Boeing's choice of the new CFM International LEAP-1B engine was based on its own criteria, independent of the excellent commercial performance of the LEAP-1A on Airbus's own reengined A320neo. There were clearly two main factors in this selection, namely the performance offered by the new LEAP engine, and our exceptional partnership with the aircraft manufacturer. It's well worth repeating that the success of the latest 737 generations was largely built on this favored relationship, first with the CFM56-3 [737 Classic], then with the CFM56-7 [Next Generation 737]. We worked hand-in-hand for many months with Boeing on the planned reengining of their iconic single-aisle twin, and negotiations culminated in an agreement continuing CFM's role as exclusive engine supplier on the Boeing 737 Max. The new LEAP-1B version will be uniquely optimized for this airplane.

What challenges does the LEAP engine still face?
Boeing's choice confirms that LEAP is indeed set to be the benchmark single-aisle jetliner engine in the coming decades. It is not only the exclusive powerplant for the new version of the 737, but also the sales leader on the new A320neo program, and the only Western engine to power China's new C919 jetliner being developed by Comac. LEAP's success is due to the fact that it perfectly meets aircraft manufacturers' evolving needs, as well as to the reputation of the engine-maker CFM, which has always met its commitments since being founded over 35 years ago. In fact, the main challenge facing our teams is to continue to uphold this reputation, by meeting program deadlines and performance specifications, and proving its value in service, based on reliability, cost of ownership, etc. This is a hefty challenge indeed, because unlike the modifications to the CFM56 over the years, this time we are dealing with a brand-new engine.

How would you describe your first few months at the head of CFM International?
I joined CFM International in February, less than three years after GE and Safran signed the agreement extending the CFM partnership until 2040. Like most people working for CFM, I am very satisfied to see so many airlines expressing their confidence by choosing our LEAP engine. I hope that this new engine will enjoy the same brilliant career as its older brother, the CFM56, with some 22,000 now in service, and another 400 orders booked at the last Paris Air Show. From everything we have seen so far, it seems to be off to an excellent start.

Introducing the Boeing 737 Max… its new-generation twinjet powered by LEAP-1B engines
See the video