Testing Goes Well for New Engine Destined for Airbus, Boeing Jets

(The Seattle Times/MCT) —

Development and testing of the engine that will power the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 MAX jet families is “running very smoothly,” the leadership of CFM International said Wednesday.

CFM, a joint venture between General Electric Co. and Safran of France, is making the new LEAP engines for the Airbus A320neo, the Boeing 737MAX and the COMAC C919 jet.

The first test engine for the Airbus A320 was started up last month at GE’s outdoor test facility in Peebles, Ohio, and so far has been operated for more than 170 hours. “We’re thrilled with how it’s running and the results of the testing,” said CFM executive vice president Chaker Chahrour on a media teleconference.

The LEAP engine is the exclusive engine on the Boeing 737 MAX and the COMAC C919. On the Airbus A320neo, there are two engines: CFM’s LEAP and Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower.

Pratt’s engine – featuring an innovative geared fan – is exclusive on the Bombardier CSeries, which last month made its first flight, and on Mitsubishi’s MRJ regional jet, the Russian MS-21, and the Embraer E2 jet series.

With competing engines on all these new airframes, Pratt and CFM are locked in as fierce a struggle for market dominance as are Airbus and Boeing.

Pratt’s A320neo engine is doing test flights, and is scheduled to enter service ahead of the CFM engine, by the end of 2015. The CFM A320neo engine won’t fly until the middle of next year, and is scheduled to enter service in mid-2016.

Nevertheless, CEO Jean-Paul Ebanga insisted that CFM is not playing catch-up and that development is following exactly the schedule planned when the engine was launched in 2010.

Chahrour said that when both engines enter service, his engineering team expects the LEAP to have a 1-2 percent advantage in fuel efficiency over Pratt’s engine.

CFM’s engine test schedule reflects how Boeing’s MAX development is lagging behind the Airbus A320neo by more than 18 months.

The variant of the LEAP engine that will power Boeing’s MAX won’t fly until early 2015, and is scheduled to enter service in mid-2017.

CFM’s test plans for 2014 include running the LEAP A320neo variant through a torture test, operating it at maximum speed and maximum temperature for extended periods. Airlines have already ordered more than 5,000 LEAP engines.

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