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April 20, 2024
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It is our understanding that CFM’s LEAP is coming along according to plan. The program has had no unusual events to cause either OEMs or airlines any concerns. The promise of the LEAP is to deliver 15% improved fuel burn and 50% margin on NOx as well as a substantially lower noise footprint.

The LEAP has a tough act to follow; CFM promises the LEAP is going to offer the comparable maintenance costs to those of the CFM56. The CFM56 is the most popular turbine engine in use among single aisle airliners. Take a look at this table to see what we mean.


CFM is at pains to point out that it has a reputation for delivering on spec on the CFM56 and intends to do that again on the LEAP. Looking at the orders for the 737MAX and the A320neo, that confidence is accepted by the lessors and airlines which have placed orders. When looking at the engine orders for the forthcoming MAX and C919, CFM is exclusive and 100%, and on the competitive A320 family, neo program, it has a 55.2% market share so far, albeit 40% of the outstanding orders have yet to chose an engine. These aircraft represent some 90% of the orders for the next generation single aisle aircraft.

Boeing provided their view on the LEAP 1B as follows: “The engine will be optimized for the 737 to offer the best fuel efficiency and lowest operating costs. The core will be lighter and more fuel-efficient than the competition when integrated onto the airplane because the 737 airframe is lighter and more fuel efficient than the A320 family.

Core efficiency and bypass ratio, along with airplane weight, drag and thrust, are all optimized to achieve fuel efficiency. The neo, and the A321 in particular, requires a much larger and heavier engine because the airplane is heavier and requires more thrust, requiring a bigger, less efficient engine/airframe combination.

The two engines are adding about the same improvements, so we will retain the advantage we currently have over the competition with an 8 percent per-seat operating cost advantage on the 737 MAX 8 over the A320 neo.”

The LEAP is deploying innovative additive manufacturing based on GE’s acquisition of Morris Technologies. This allows the firm to develop 3D printing allowing for some parts to be 25% lighter than on the CFM56. In addition using Resin Transfer Molding fan blades and the housing in CRFP have reduced engine weight by 500 pounds compared to the same size fan manufactured using traditional metal components.

CFM’s confidence seems reasonable given its track record. Engine programs delivered for 21 aircraft types on spec and on time. The CFM56 operates at 99.98% dispatch reliability. This is remarkable when one considers these engines are primarily on 737s and A320s flying up to eight to 10 sectors per day. Such activity stresses the engines and should lead to lots more breakdowns.

Next consider the ramp up coming at both Airbus and Boeing. Crucial to this effort’s success will be the delivery by CFM of engines. There is a further wrinkle here – CFM is ramping up the CFM56 production on both current programs and then has to transition to the LEAP at these new high levels of production.

In summary, CFM is facing a daunting task. Its CFM56 has been a very successful engine. It has to deliver a LEAP engine that builds on this history with big improvements at the same cost basis. Were there any doubt on the LEAP we would not be seeing such confidence from the OEMs, airlines and lessors.

The Bottom Line

CFM has historically delivered its promised performance on time, and expects to continue to do that with LEAP.  We spoke with CFM, who confirmed that their program remains on time and on target for performance.  The market has shown confidence in the engine, which we expect will perform well when it enters service in 2016 on the A320neo. It should provide a 15% decrease in fuel burn over the existing CFM-56 with no increase in maintenance costs.

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8 thoughts on “CFM LEAP – Maintaining momentum

  1. What about the Aspire news that the LEAP nacelle suffered heat damage and that the LEAP is currently 4-5% below spec? I have every confidence that they will figure it out at some point but it would be great to really know if this is true or false to determine if they will be stretch goal/sprinting to get to their specs or if, really, this is all “relaxed” business as usual. This would impact ability to further upgrade this engine in the future (i.e. if they pull out all the tricks in the book already to get to the specs). Versus the Pratt Geared Turbo Fan (GTF) that seems to be at the start of its potential of improvements. This is rather important to know.

  2. What is this? A mouthpiece of CFM? Of course, they have historically delivered on CFM engines. But that is not the issue. Is it? LEAP design is a significant gamble compared to traditional CFM designs. “Remains on target to performance” does not mean anything. The TSFC could be 10% below specs and still “on target to performance.” Question is: Have the tests revealed a performance shortfall? If so by how much? Is it reasonable to expect the specifications to be realized WITHOUT a major design change in the engine core (since fan size and BPR are pretty much set)? That is what people want to know. Not just the PR release: “Everything is on target and fine. Just trust us!”

  3. did you ask CFM about these rumors [you were talking to them]? I don’t see why I’d ask Aspire, they’ve already stated all they needed to say: LEAP had nacelle heat damage and will struggle to meet specs. If they posted it, I guess I don’t have to ask them if they are really sure. What I’m looking for is anyone else who might have more info, who talked to them, etc. You did talk to them. As the other comment below noted, this article sounds more like an infomercial than “asking the tough” questions. I hope the media (WSJ/Jon Ostrower et al) gets on the phone and asks the tough questions. I’m not a reporter, I don’t have access to ask these questions.

  4. I’m delighted to hear that the LEAP program is going well. 15% improved fuel burn is amazing. I can’t wait till the LEAP A320neo first flight! Perhaps CFM will release some new info to the public then, like for instance an update on their YouTube channel.

  5. The timing of this article is very curious considering an almost complete opposite point of view from Aspire. It almost seems like someone from CFM called in a favor to AirInsight and specified exactly what to say. Is there a corresponding advertisement for P&W’s GTF you can point us to? The wording in the second sentence is also interesting – “nothing to cause concern”. GE and CFM can certainly fix any problems but hiding the issue and spinning the rumors may cause more concern.

  6. The Bottom Line. CFM has historically delivered its promised performance on time, and expects to continue to do that with LEAP.

    I can’t comment on LEAP progress, but GE really struggled with its GENX engine, which will make up the greatest technological heritage for LEAP. It initially missed spec by about 5% and even that was flattered to some extent by the delays in the 787 program.


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