LEAP: an innovative engine

CFM International, the 50/50 joint company of Safran and GE, develops, produces and markets the CFM56, the world’s best-selling commercial aircraft engine. We spoke to President and CEO, Jean-Paul Ebanga, about this industrial and commercial achievement and about the successor to the CFM56, the LEAP.

CFM International is a benchmark for transatlantic cooperation. Can you tell us a little more about the reasons for this success?

This cooperation is remarkable not only in terms of its tremendous success but also its longevity: originally set up in 1974, the partnership has now been extended until 2040. CFM International has already built over 23,000 engines and we have another 9,000 currently on order... There are many reasons for this success but I must say that 50/50 cooperation in every area of activity – including sales, development, production and services – has been a key factor. On the human side, the relationship is characterized by mutual trust and respect. We have achieved a kind of ideal alchemy where 1+1 is greater than two.

Since it was put onto the market in 2010, the LEAP engine, the successor to the CFM56, has been a real commercial hit. What benefits does it offer?

We have already taken over 3,000 orders for the LEAP! The performance levels achieved by this new, totally innovative engine do indeed represent a breakthrough compared with the previous generation: 15 percent greater fuel efficiency, NOx emissions down by 50 percent and a 75 percent reduction in noise level. The LEAP has been selected for three major programs as it will be one of the engine options on the Airbus A320neo, the sole powerplant for the Boeing 737 MAX, and the only western engine for the COMAC C919.
Although it is only natural that the spotlights are focusing on our new generation of engines, we must not forget about the CFM56 which has boosted its position as the best engine around today. In 2011, we built a record 1,300 of them and logged 1,500 orders, as many as the previous year. This dynamic will continue for a few years yet as we expect to step up to 1,600 CFM56s per year by 2014.

What are the LEAP's ground-breaking technologies compared with previous generations of engine?

The LEAP incorporates over a thousand innovations. Let's take the example of the 3D woven, RTM composite fan blade – a revolutionary technology resulting in a blade that weighs 25 percent less than the current model and which will be the first maintenance-free blade in service.

How is your company facing up to 2012?

We are approaching this year with confidence and determination. We have already won 410 orders since the turn of the year and have six years of production work in hand. Additionally our involvement in the main three new-generation aircraft puts us in an ideal position to make the LEAP tomorrow's benchmark engine. Our CFM Services offering is also growing strongly and, last but not least, we receive unfailing support from Safran and GE. Challenges will undoubtedly lie ahead, but CFM has all the tools required to write new chapters in its success story and remain the world's leading engine manufacturer for a long time to come!