CFM CEO Expects Leap Engine To Hit CFM56 Benchmark Soon

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CFM CEO Expects Leap Engine To Hit CFM56 Benchmark Soon

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HAMBURG—With some 75% of the new single-aisle engine market and the worst post-pandemic supply chain issues in the rearview mirror, CFM International’s focus is now on increasing the time on wing of its Leap engines.

Speaking at Airbus’ Hamburg Finkenwerder site as easyJet took delivery of its latest Leap-powered Airbus A320neo, CFM CEO Gaël Méheust told Aviation Daily that the durability of the Leap is set to meet the standard set by the previous generation CFM56.

“When it comes to time on the wing of the CFM56, it took us probably 25 years to reach that level where we are right now—we have to keep that in mind,” Méheust said.

The Leap went into service eight years ago. “We are already way higher than we were in terms of time on wing with the CFM56 at a similar time of the program,” he adds.

However, the Leap is not where many airlines upgrading from the CFM56 want it to be in terms of cycles before it has to be removed for maintenance.

Shane Lord, easyJet’s director of strategy, network and fleet, told Aviation Daily that the Leap engines on its A320neo-family fleet “maybe come a bit earlier from the wing than we would like. It is part of the maturity—introducing new components, that gets us to where the CFM56 benchmark is. There is a lot of work we do with CFM to improve the engine.”

Méheust acknowledged that there are nagging issues that need to be resolved. “We have a couple that are left for which we have certified solutions that we are going to bring to the product in the coming months,” Méheust said. Once these new components are introduced, he sees no reason why the Leap cannot reach the CFM56 benchmark.

The supply chain issues that plagued the engine-maker at the tail-end of the pandemic when demand returned are now largely resolved. “We have far less [trouble] than we had two years ago where suppliers had difficulties, but still [we have] a few problems,” the CEO said. “We are managing them very closely, but we are the [engine] OEM in the industry with the highest ramp-up.”

Leap engine deliveries in 2023 were up 40% on 2022. “And for this year, if you look to the output versus 2023, we will be somewhere between 20% and 30% [higher]—this is another big step,” Méheust said.

CFM is now producing a similar number of engines as before the pandemic. “For 2024, we should be around somewhere between 1,800 and 1,900 engines [production],” he said.

Leap engines delivered so far have flown some 14 million hr. and 20 million cycles. While the Leap’s time on wing could be longer, CFM customers are achieving higher utilization than those airlines which opted for the A320neo family’s other engine option, Pratt & Whitney’s GTF.

As Pratt-powered A320neos have been grounded for inspections, CFM has seen an uptick in interest from GTF operators. “They are currently coming and knocking on our door and asking if we can deliver,” Méheust said. “We are making proposals.”

“For us, we have sold so many engines that we have covered almost all of our capabilities in terms of MRO,” he continued. That lack of capacity is why CFM opened the Leap MRO network to third parties. “That has always been CFM policy. And now, licensed third parties are stepping in and offering solutions to customers. I think in a combination with having those MRO stepping in providing solutions and capacity, that will open up ability for us to accept more orders from customers who are willing to fly the Leap—and there are many.”

One improvement that CFM has now introduced on the Leap is a new reverse bleed system (RBS) designed to prevent a fuel nozzle problem—coking—linked to carbon deposits. Coking occurs when core engine hardware releases heat, or soaks back, after shutdown. The RBS is designed to eliminate the issue as well as related maintenance inspections and nozzle swaps in place now to mitigate risk.

Regarding the challenges Boeing faces in producing fewer 737 MAXs than planned because of quality issues, Méheust said CFM is doing what it can to support the OEM. “We have a very close relationship with Boeing, and we are trying to match their requests as closely as we can. It is an active dialog, and we deliver the engines that they need,” the CEO said.

CFM International is a 50-50 joint venture between Safran Aircraft Engines and GE Aerospace.

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