This Year, It Is All About LEAP

As the engine stands on the verge of entering commercial service later this year, the LEAP programme is delivering on all of its commitments. Adding fun to the leap year, CFM International ran trivia which had the twitterati busy for a while.

Issue: 2 / 2016By R. ChandrakanthPhoto(s): By CFM

On February 29, 2016, a leap day in a leap year, CFM International had the aviation geeks and twitterati something to quiz their brains about. It shot some random questions on their now famous engine LEAP, the next-generation engine which is expected to give bang for the buck.

Launch customer

The trivia questions generated a number of answers and some lucky respondents walked away with goodies. The first trivia was—who is the launch customer for our LEAP engine? The twitter handle @AirbusRed was quick on its feet to respond with the answer – Virgin America. It was on June 15, 2011, that Virgin America announced that it had selected CFM International’s advanced LEAP engine to power 30 new Airbus A320neo aircraft scheduled to begin delivery in 2016. In addition, the airline selected the CFM56-5B engine to power 30 A320s on order. The engine orders had a combined value of $1.4 billion at list prices.

LEAP stands for

Now one must be wondering what is this LEAP all about? And CFM International’s next question was on what the acronym LEAP stood for. The twitter handle @greenalex was first to respond with the answer – Leading Edge Aviation Propulsion. The CFM International LEAP ( formerly called LEAPX) is a high-bypass turbofan engine. It is currently under development by CFM International, a 50-50 joint venture company between GE Aviation of the United States and Snecma of France.

On aircraft

The third trivia was - Which aircraft do LEAP engines power? (a) Boeing 737 Max; (b) Airbus A320neo, A319neo, A321neo; (c)Comac C919 and (d) all the above. Twitter handle @planemadblog won a LEAP mug for answering it right – d . The CFM LEAP family represents the engines of choice for the nextgeneration single-aisle aircraft. The LEAP-1A is an option on the Airbus A320neo; the LEAP-1B is the exclusive power plant for the Boeing 737 MAX; and the LEAP-1C is the sole Western powerplant for the COMAC C919.

Composite material

The fourth trivia was more technical and it went like this: “I am third the weight and twice the strength of Ni-base alloy metals and have 20 per cent greater temperature capability? What material am I? The twitter handle @MGRYGLAS7 got a LEAP water bottle for getting it right. The answer was ceramics matrix composites. Ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) are a subgroup of composite materials. They consist of ceramic fibres embedded in a ceramic matrix, thus forming a ceramic fibre reinforced ceramic. CFM International is using CMC parts to reduce weight in its Leap-X demonstrator engine programme, which is aimed at providing next-generation turbine engines for narrow-body airliners.

Global supply chain

One other trivia was to do with global supply chain and the question was – how many square feet (sq. mts) have been added to our global supply chain to produce LEAP engines? @guildupont answered 1.5 million sq ft (1,39,400 sq m) to bag a LEAP mug. The final trivia was - how many operators have already ordered the LEAP engine? Three of them gave close answers and it was for CFM International to give the correct answer which is nearly 100 customers for about 10,000 orders.

To enter commercial service soon

As the engine stands on the verge of entering commercial service later this year, the LEAP programme is delivering on all of its commitments.

“The LEAP development and flight test programmes have been incredibly smooth, thanks to the preparation, hard work and the experience of our team,” said Allen Paxson, Executive Vice President of CFM International. “The LEAP-1A, -1B, and -1C engines are each meeting or beating our performance specifications. We have been conducting intense flight-test campaigns with Airbus and Boeing, as well as on our own flying test beds since late 2014. During all of this testing, we have had zero disruptions, no outstation removals, no engine issues of any kind. It has been operated in every imaginable environment and the engines have performed flawlessly.”

The LEAP-1A was certified in November 2015 and the final certification tests for the LEAP-1B are nearing completion. Overall, the entire programme has logged nearly 9,000 hours and 20,000 cycles since the first engine went to test in September 2013. The LEAP-1A is scheduled to enter commercial service in mid-2016 on the Airbus A320neo; first deliveries of the LEAP-1B on the 737 MAX are scheduled to begin in 2017. The LEAP-1C is scheduled for first flight on the COMAC C919 in late 2016.

“The success of the LEAP programme didn’t just happen,” said François Bastin, Executive Vice President of CFM International. “It is the result of years of planning and a meticulous process of testing and maturing individual technologies before we put them in the engine; we began component and rig tests four years before our first full engine test.

“It also comes from listening to our customers and understanding that reliability is not optional when your business model requires eight to 10 flights per day. They depend on the worldclass reliability of their CFM56 fleets today and expect nothing less from their LEAP engines tomorrow.”

The advanced technology that makes up the LEAP engine family will result in a highly reliable, fuel-efficient power plant for the new Airbus A320neo (new engine option), Boeing 737 MAX, and COMAC C919. The engine incorporates many industry firsts, including the 3-D woven carbon fibre composite fan blade and case; the one-of-a-kind debris rejection system; fourth-generation 3-D aerodynamics; the first commercial use of ceramic matrix composites (CMCs); the revolutionary combustor design featuring fuel nozzles grown using additive manufacturing; and lightweight titanium aluminide airfoils.