CFM combines the resources, engineering expertise and product support of two major aircraft engine manufacturers: Snecma (Safran) of France, and GE of the U.S.
Truly a product of international cooperation, the CFM56 line of six engine models offers unparalleled reliability and cost of ownership. With a thrust range of 18,500 to 34,000 pounds, they’re well-suited for many commercial and military aircraft.
CFM is not an acronym, so it doesn't stand for anything. The company (CFM), and product line (CFM56), got their names by a combination of the two parent companies' commercial engine designations: GE's CF6 and Snecma's M56.
Underlying CFM's rapid and hard-earned success is the ingenuity of its designers, engineers and product support personnel throughout the world. At CFM, our goal is to maintain the trust of airlines and airframers and contribute to the operational success of our customers. We do this by building remarkable engines and offering dedicated services.
CFM keeps the CFM56 family of engines the best in their class by infusing newly matured technology into the existing fleet. We’re also anticipating tomorrow’s industry needs with the advanced LEAP technology development program.
In the last decade, CFM56 engines have been selected to power more than half of all commercial aircraft ordered. More than 520 airlines, charter operators, militaries, and leasing companies around the globe have chosen the CFM56 because of its proven heritage of reliability and low cost of ownership. With more than 22,000 engines delivered to date, a CFM56-powered aircraft takes off every 2.5 seconds.
Since its founding by two leading engine manufacturers (Snecma and GE), CFM has had many advantages favoring its success:
The work split for the CFM56 engine takes advantage of the technological expertise and achievements of both Snecma and GE.
Snecma is responsible for the low-pressure turbine in the rear of the engine, which drives the CFM56 fan in the front, also engineered by Snecma.
GE builds the CFM56 core, which is based on GE’s F101 engine (developed for the B-1 bomber). The engine’s core is the heart of any engine and is made up of three components: high-pressure compressor, combustor and high-pressure turbine.
Snecma, a Safran company, designs and builds engines for commercial and military aircraft, either alone or in partnership.
Snecma benefits from the synergies generated by Safran’s three high-tech core businesses: Aerospace Propulsion, Defense and Security. Safran has more than 55,000 employees in more than 30 countries and holds, alone or in partnership, global or European leadership positions in all of its markets.
During World War I, France was the leading manufacturer of aircraft engines.
Between the two world wars, French military heroes such as General Charles de Gaulle helped write the history of aviation. In fact, General de Gaulle signed the bill creating the state-owned Snecma on May 29, 1945. This returned France, after a lapse, to its leading role in the aviation industry.
From the outset, Snecma focused on developing a revolutionary technology: the jet engine. With the help of German engineers who pioneered this technology, Snecma developed the Atar combat aircraft engine in the early 1950s. Powering many different versions of Dassault aircraft, this engine was inextricably linked with the worldwide success of the famous Mirage fighter family.
Thanks to Snecma, France enjoyed a totally independent source of engines for both its own military aircraft and for aircraft exported to a number of other countries.
Today, Snecma occupies a prominent position within both aeronautics and space fields. Besides partnering with GE on the CFM56, the company developed both the M88-02 for the Rafale D combat aircraft and the twin solid-propulsion units for the Ariane 5 launch vehicle.
GE Aviation, a division of General Electric Company, is a world-leading producer of commercial and military jet engines and components as well as integrated digital, electric power, and mechanical systems for aircraft. The business employs more than 38,000 people in more than 50 locations worldwide.
Technological excellence, supported by continuing substantial investments in research and development, has been the foundation of GE Aviation's growth and helps to ensure quality products for customers.
GE's Aviation business has scored many firsts. Among them: America's first jet engine, the first turbojet engines to power flights at two and three times the speed of sound, and the world's first high-bypass turbofan engine to enter service.
The path to leadership for jet engines began for GE when the United States entered World War I in 1917. The U.S. government was searching for a company to develop the first airplane engine turbosupercharger for the fledgling U.S. aviation industry.
GE accepted the challenge first, but another team also requested the chance to develop the turbosupercharger. Then began the first military aircraft engine competition in the U.S. Under wartime secrecy, both companies tested and developed various designs until the Army called for a test demonstration.
In the bitter atmosphere of Pikes Peak, 14,000 feet above sea level, GE demonstrated a 350-horsepower, turbosupercharged Liberty aircraft engine and entered the business of making airplanes fly higher, faster, and with more efficiency than ever before. That mountaintop test of the first turbosupercharger landed GE's first aviation-related government contract and paved the way for GE to become a world leader in jet engines.
For more than two decades, GE continued to produce turbosuperchargers that enabled aircraft, including many in service during World War II, to fly higher, with heavier payloads. The Company's expertise figured significantly in the U.S. Army Air Force's selection of GE to develop the nation's first jet engine.
Today, GE Aviation designs, develops, and manufactures jet engines for a broad spectrum of military and commercial aircraft as well as aeroderivative gas turbines for marine applications.
It was a transcontinental friendship between a jet engine pioneer and French Resistance hero that led to the founding of CFM.
In the early 1970s, the respective heads of GE Aviation and Snecma (Safran) were Gerhard Neumann, jet engine innovator, and René Ravaud, hero of the French Resistance. The two men shared the vision of an international joint venture between their companies and remained steadfast in their purpose.
In the 1960s, GE established itself as a major manufacturer of commercial jet engines, due to the success of the CF6 turbofan. This ensuing production ramp-up prompted a CF6 production agreement with Snecma (Safran) in 1969, linking the two companies in financial and manufacturing areas.
At the same time, Snecma and GE wanted to start gaining a share of the short-to-medium range aircraft market that was dominated by low-bypass engines. This, and the mutual respect the companies had built for each other during the CF6 agreement, provided the impetus for launching a 50/50 joint venture. In 1974, this relationship became legally formalized as CFM International (CFM) and the first new CFM56 turbofan engine went to test.
Today, the aircraft engine that René Ravaud and Gerhard Neumann envisioned is logging one million engine hours every nine days. On average, a CFM56-powered aircraft takes off every two seconds. Reliability is so high that many engines go for as long as 25,000 hours with only routine maintenance.
Viewed in terms of sales of product, the organization Ravaud and Neumann left behind is one of the most successful international relationships in the world.
Mechanical engineer Jean-Noel Mahieu is leading design of the fan that will propel a markedly different powerplant than any CFM has produced before - the open rotor engine.
Why pioneer such a radical architecture path?
"The automobile had to undergo a new concept to keep making progress," he explains. "For us it's the very different architecture of an open rotor engine."
After 35 years, CFM's refinement of the turbofan is reaching a level of sophistication that precludes huge advances. In past years CFM has been able to lower fuel burn by about one percent each year through upgrades. The new LEAP turbofan, poised for 2016 certification, will reduce fuel burn by 16 percent compared to today's CFM56 engine.
But the industry will demand more dramatic advances in future decades, and an open rotor engine could cut fuel burn as much as 26 percent.
A counter-rotating fan built from woven composite material will distinguish the open rotor. The fan's blades (currently 12 in the front row and 10 in the back) are more peculiar than turbofan blades and must be guarded from different mechanical problems.
"CFM is investing a huge amount of time and resources into these blades," Jean-Noel says. "We're re-doing all our designs around new specifications."
Jean-Noel says their work is more fruitful because some of the best engineering minds in France and the U.S. are combining their knowledge. Both GE and Snecma, CFM's parent companies, are refining and testing their own open rotor geometries and then comparing results. "This teamwork is making it easier for CFM to determine the best open rotor design," says Jean-Noel.
The right design will include the most environmentally sound and fuel-efficient fan yet, with no compromise to CFM's established reliability.
Jean-Noel is not only facing a technical challenge as he works on the open rotor fan. He is also fighting the impact this engine will have on the planet.
"Pollution from airplanes affects the public," he says. "We have to address the problem of carbon dioxide emissions or we will be facing a bigger environmental problem. It's the only way to go on flying."
An open rotor engine promises to fly in dramatically cleaner fashion, and that's why Jean-Noel likes the new concept so well. Its efficiency is also a shield against that fitful foe of engine operators: fuel prices.
The fan plays a pivotal role in overall fuel efficiency because it produces 75 percent of an engine's thrust.
Composite materials are extremely light, allowing a higher bypass ratio and leading to lower fuel burn. Since they can be intricately formed, it is easier for Jean-Noel's team to mold the composite blades into aerodynamically efficient shapes.
A different type of noise
Because it operates at a less rapid speed, the noise frequencies from an open rotor engine are lower than what people are used to hearing from a traditional turbofan.
Above all, Jean-Noel's gravest responsibility is engine safety. "I take the technical quality of our designs very, very seriously," he says.
When a CFM56-powered aircraft encountered a flock of Canadian geese and made an emergency landing on the Hudson River in 2009, the event spurred Jean-Noel's team into more intense efforts to design robust fan blades.
They've increased the mass of engineering testing on designs and are taking into account bigger bird populations and the higher possibility of impact.
Thankfully, woven composites are tough material. "We're already in front of the certification agencies in terms of durability," Jean-Noel promises.
Hearing what stakeholders say, Jean-Noel says engine operators will have three things foremost on their minds during the next decade: safety, fuel efficiency and quiet operation.
He believes CFM is an industry leader that is responding to these needs. And more importantly, a leader that wants to work with every stakeholder.
"This is common work," Jean-Noel says. "We have to get together with customers, authorities and airplane makers to focus on the same goal. I'm confident that we can introduce a nice, safe product to the market."