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A real-time demonstration confirms Aircelle is “ready to climb” with the LEAP-1A engine nacelle and its integration


April 19, 2016

Aircelle has vividly demonstrated its commitment to meeting the unprecedented nacelle production ramp-up required for CFM International LEAP-1A engines, along with its provision of the integrated propulsion systems to equip Airbus’ A320neo jetliner family.

This demonstration occurred during last Friday’s ceremony for the first LEAP-1A delivery to Airbus, during which Aircelle team members performed the engine/nacelle integration in just under 11 minutes – witnessed by 450 invited guests and employees at Aircelle’s Colomiers, France facility.

Greeted by applause and cheers, the record-time integration underscored Aircelle’s nearly $100 million investments in processes, innovation, supply chain management and employee skills across all of its production sites, making Aircelle “ready to climb” for the fastest and largest production ramp-up in the history of civil aviation.  

In comparison to the April 15 delivery ceremony’s engine/nacelle podding demonstration – which was clocked at exactly 10 minutes and 49 seconds in full view of the audience – such a process typically can take hours with other engines, depending upon the powerplant type and its integration environment.

Five years of preparations and an on-time first delivery

Aircelle has overall responsibility for the nacelle design and its integration with the LEAP-1A high-bypass turbofan jet engine, followed by deliveries of complete propulsion systems to Airbus.  Aircelle was selected by the aircraft manufacturer in 2011, and the company spent the following five years preparing for this month’s on-time first handover, along with readying the upswing in output.  

Aircelle President Jean-Paul Alary said by 2019, deliveries of LEAP-1A integrated propulsion systems will reach some 560 annually for the A320neo (new engine option) jetliner family. This is nearly the exact same volume of thrust reversers built last year by Aircelle for CFM International’s CFM56 engines used on A320ceo (current engine option) aircraft – a rate that took 30 years to reach.

“We have made a complete reconfiguration at Aircelle to be positioned for the LEAP-1A’s exceptional ramp-up, while also being able to provide a quality product that is mature at service entry,” Alary said. “We’ve completely rethought our production facilities at all Aircelle sites, we’ve increased the use of automation, refined and optimized our processes toward the goal of zero defects and zero derogations, and applied innovation to optimize flows and the activity from production to delivery.”

An Aircelle innovation: the SmartTrolley engine cradle/transporter 

One example of this reconfiguration is the SmartTrolley – a specially-designed engine cradle and transporter was developed using the ideas of Aircelle shop floor personnel, and created in cooperation with a specialized tooling supplier.

According to Serge Rière, Aircelle’s Site & Operations Director, the SmartTrolley streamlines and facilitates the nacelle integration process, while reducing the number of steps in bringing together the engine with its nacelle components. In another significant advantage, the same SmartTrolley is used from engine/nacelle podding at Aircelle’s integration facilities to the installation of a complete powerplant under the A320neo jetliner’s wing on Airbus’ final assembly lines (FALs) – significantly reducing the handling required throughout the entire process.

The SmartTrolley operates electrically, rotating, raising and tilting the LEAP-1A engine as required for its integration with the nacelle system at Aircelle, as well as for the subsequent underwing installation on the A320neo’s pylon after being transported to the FAL locations for Airbus’ single-aisle jetliner. 

Floating on an air cushion, the SmartTrolley is easily moved and controlled by a single operator, and it significantly improves the ergonomics for workers through all steps of the integration and installation process.

Eric Lecossais, Aircelle’s A320neo Program Manager, said the SmartTrolley will be used throughout the company’s growing network of facilities, beginning in the Colomiers, France integration site and for the deliveries of completed engines to Airbus’ A320 final assembly lines in Germany at Hamburg Finkenwerder Airport. 

SmartTrolleys also will be deployed to Aircelle’s new integration facility that is to become operational later this year at Hamburg in support of Airbus’ German FAL. In the future, SmartTrolleys will be used to install LEAP-1A integrated propulsion systems on aircraft at Airbus’ A320 FAL operation at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport near Colomiers, along with the latest A320 jetliner final assembly line in the United States at Mobile, Alabama – where Aircelle currently is defining the arrangements for its on-site physical presence at this location on America’s Gulf Coast.