Posted on: 14 June 2015 by Mark Howells
Having achieved the first LEAP-1A flight on an Airbus A320neo last month, CFM is looking beyond the certification programme to dealing with the production ramp up required to meet the large order number of orders not just the A320neo family, but also the Boeing 737 MAX and COMAC C919 families.
The Snecma/GE joint venture has eight years of production in the current backlog – more than 13,000 engines, some CFM56s some LEAP. “We’ve seen this coming for years and there is no-one better prepared,” declared EVP François Bastin. “Already we’re delivering a CFM56 engine every 5 hours.
“The maximum LEAP capacity as currently planned is to deliver more than 1,800 engines a year by 2020. We will adapt to the rate required [by the airframers]. It’s a matter of what the customer requires,” Bastin added, acknowledging that both Airbus and Boeing have been openly discussing pushing towards 60 aircraft per month.
Bastin’s fellow EVP Allen Paxson explained, however, that the biggest challenge is the rate of increase in LEAP engines over a short time. “That is constrained by the supply chain,” he admitted. “There are more than 4,000 unique parts in a LEAP engines.”
To aid the rate increase, CFM is performing exercises know as “Run@rate”, where a future production rate is performed now. “We will take a two-week period and run produciton at a certain faster rate. We’ll be repeating this regularly and will conduct [the exercise] at a higher rate each time,” said Paxson.
“We will have a focus on the components that we are most worried about, which are mainly new parts. It’s all designed to stress the system and it applies to materials, production line, logistics and more,” he continued. “It’s demonstrating process stability ahead of when we’ll actually need it, doing it across the production lines. Then we’ll implement the lessons learned.”
The two EVPs were asked what keeps them awake at night and Bastin spoke up for the pair. “Our job is to make sure all the preparation is done so that we don’t stay awake at night. But what we are doing here – the ramp-up – has never been done before, so there has to be forward thinking,” he responded. “For example, there will be 50 individual LEAP EISs over three years.”
CFM president & CEO Jean-Paul Ebanga reported that following 4,244 orders in total in 2014 (1,527 CFM56 orders and 2,717 LEAP), the company expects to go higher in 2015. “We have 314 CFM56 orders and just over 500 LEAP orders so far in 2015,” he stated
“In one sentence – Life if Good! Not just for us but for the industry,” Ebanga continued. “We’re seeing 4.7% CAGR, which means the market and fleet will double in the next 20 years.
“On LEAP, all the lights are green. Development is going well. Orders are going well with 8,900 engines sold. We’re pretty well set to get a fair share of all the approximately 45,000 engines our market segment will require over the next 20 years. The value of that is around $600 billion. We’re confident that not only are the forecasts good, but the fundamentals that support the forecasts are good too,” Ebanga declared.
Paxson reported that the LEAP programme is on course not just for FAR 33 certification “but also to demonstrate the robustness of our engines, which have to take off in so many different circumstances – hot, high, in rain and hail, and so on”.
All three LEAP variants are flying and have completed in excess of 425 flight test hours over more than 50 flights. “During natural ice testing in Alaska there was damage requiring repair – but to the other three engines on the 747, not the LEAP engine,” Paxson exclaimed.
He concluded with one simple message: “All the commitments we made four years ago will be met.”
Bernie Baldwin, editor, Low-Fare & Regional Airlines/LARAnews.net
Le Bourget, Paris, France