Snecma is preparing the engines for tomorrow’s aircraft

Snecma (Safran) is ramping up to stay a step ahead of the LEAP’s commercial success, by designing engines that save more fuel, introducing new technology and rising to the industrial challenge down the road. Snecma CEO Pierre Fabre told us more.

The 4,000 orders for LEAP engines in your backlog already make it a big sales hit. How do you explain that?
I can see two main reasons: the LEAP is an excellent engine and CFM* has built an outstanding reputation as a credible supplier on its market. The LEAP concentrates the finest technology that GE and Snecma have been honing for years. That's why we believe it's the right engine for airlines and operators when it comes to consumption, reliability and maintenance. That's also why the world's two leading aircraft manufacturers have chosen the LEAP for their latest-generation single-aisle jets – the Boeing 737 MAX (which is using this engine on an exclusive basis) and the Airbus A320neo – and by COMAC, the Chinese newcomer that is venturing into this market with the C919 and has also chosen the LEAP as its benchmark engine. To show you what I mean about credibility, I would just like to remind you that 21 CFM engines have entered into service on time, and met specifications every time, since the company started.

How are your industrial plants going to handle this success?
We are going to do something no other engine manufacturer has ever done before. First, we are going to step up CFM56 production to 1,600 engines a year by 2016. Then we will spend two years shifting from CFM56 production to LEAP production, i.e. switch from 1,600 CFM56s to 1,600 LEAPs a year in 2018 – and keep our service and quality levels where they are. We have four years to prepare for this industrial challenge. Our assembly plant in Villaroche (near Paris), and GE's facility in Evendale (USA) are where most of the action is going to be. All of Snecma's ‘traditional' industrial plants in France and international markets are going to contribute too.
There is an all-new feature at the core of this program: the first composite fan blades will start rolling off production lines in the plants that Safran is building in Rochester (USA) and Commercy (eastern France) in 2014. These 3D woven composite blades will be one of the main breakthroughs on LEAP engines. They will be a real technology ‘leap' and we need to build specific industrial facilities to make them. We are already working with a large network of partners and subcontractors, which we have handpicked among the finest in France and the world.
Lastly, CFM56 part production is not over: there will be just about as many shop visits** in 2030 as in 2012!

What is Snecma's strategy to keep its MRO (Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul) competitive?
MRO service performance is one of the key aspects of any engine manufacturer's performance. Every time an engine comes back to a workshop during its 30-year lifecycle, we have an opportunity to keep our customer satisfied. That will be even more so with the LEAP, because the bulk of the contracts we have signed include service contracts. So we need to keep on working on integrating engine design/production and service operations. That is also why we are boosting our MRO network at our site in France and on international markets. Besides engines, repairing parts is also important. We need to be able to provide ground-breaking solutions with new or refurbished parts for our customers, even if they use other workshops, to help them to achieve the economic and operational performance they expect. And who can do that better than the people who know the engines inside-out because they designed them?

* CFM International is a 50/50 JV by Snecma (Safran Group, France) and GE (USA).

** Complete aircraft engine maintenance operations (disassembling engines, repairing or replacing used parts, reassembling and running bench tests).