India's SpiceJet took delivery of its first CFM Leap-1B-powered 737 Max 8 on October 12. (Photo: Boeing)
CFM International expects to meet its target for delivering 1,100 engines by the end of the year, as a once six-week schedule lag progressively dwindles thanks to what CEO Gael Meheust attributes to a strict dual-source supplier policy. “Production will be in line with the projected schedule by the end of this year,” said Meheust as he addressed reporters in New Delhi this week. “For each (engine) part, we have a dual supplier and sometimes even three…. [a reason] we have made the ramp up fast…We are on track for the next year.” He confirmed to AIN that the present production rate per year would nearly double to 2000 in 2020.
Referencing a turbine disc issue in Leap-1As for the Airbus A320neo and a batch of flawed metal discovered last May in some Leap-1B engines powering the Boeing 737 Max, Philippe Couteaux, executive vice president of sales and marketing for the GE-Safran joint venture, stressed that the problems had nothing to do with the engine’s design. “It was not a design issue,’ he said, but a “yield issue.”
“We are working with suppliers to improve the yield,” said Couteaux. “We are closing the gap actively….This year we will deliver more Leap engines than [CFM-56s]. We have never stopped delivery through all these months.”
Earlier this year, Indian budget carrier SpiceJet signed a ‘Power by the Hour’ contract with CFM to support 300 Leap-1Bs, and Vistara has signed a letter of intent covering delivery of another 50 A320/321neos powered by Leap-1As. Meawhile, the Leap's predecessor, the CFM56, has built a 64-percent market share in India versus its competition. “This has helped us develop a market for the Leap. [India] is a very promising market,” explained Couteaux, adding that particularly Indian carriers needed more efficient engines to counter a fuel cost burden that accounts for 34 percent of all their total expenses compared with 24 percent for the rest of the world. With entry into service of Jet Airways and SpiceJet Boeing 737 Max jets and Vistara’s A320neos, CFM faces a welcome challenge to satisfy the Indian market. “We need to produce engines to cope with the increase in fleet sizes,” said Couteaux.
The Leap-1A started commercial operations with the A320neo in 2016. It has drawn 32 global operators and powers 268 aircraft in service. The Leap-1B, the sole option for the 737 Max, has collected 41 operators and powers 219 aircraft. Separately, the first two China-designed Comac C919s, powered by CFM International’s Leap-1C integrated propulsion system, have begun flying. “The third one is ready to fly next week, [on October 16],” said Meheust. Nexcelle developed the Leap-1C’s composite O-Duct thrust reverser, to which a unique one-piece configuration contributes to a reduced overall structural weight and larger acoustic treatment surface. Nexcelle is a joint venture between Safran Nacelles and GE Aviation’s Middle River Aircraft Systems.
The more than 5,000 CFM engines to which Chinese airlines have committed include more than 1,000 Leap-1Cs