ZHUHAI, CHINA November 4, 2002 On April 24, 1982, Delta Air Lines helped make aviation history when it flew the very first McDonnell Douglas DC-8-71 aircraft powered by CFM56-2 engines into revenue service on its route between Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia.
CFM International (CFM) had been formed as a 50/50 joint company between Snecma (Safran Group) of France and General Electric of the United States in mid-1974. After more than five years of very successful development work, though, the company had not received a single order. In March 1979, a mere two weeks before the program was due to be officially cancelled, Delta, along with United Airlines and Flying Tigers, chose the fledgling company to re-engine DC-8 Super 70s. Within weeks, the U.S. Air Force has selected the CFM56-2 to re-engine its fleet of KC-135 tanker aircraft, and the program was saved.
No one realized at the time what they had created. Over the past 20 years, CFM has become the model for successful international joint ventures and the CFM56 product line has become the best-selling commercial engine in history. The CFM56 family encompasses six engine models ranging form 18,500 to 34, 000 pounds (82 to 151 kN) thrust powering 29 different commercial and military applications for 350 customers around the world.
Total CFM56 engine orders currently stand at more than 15,300, of which more than 13,500 have been delivered. These orders represent more than 50 percent of the 100+ passenger aircraft ordered over the past decade. To date in 2002, CFM has received orders 566 engines, or 62 percent of the commercial orders placed.
And what about those early customers? Today, Delta operates more than 100 CFM-powered 737 aircraft, while United Airlines has more than 150. The U.S. Air Force is still CFM's largest customer, with nearly 1,800 engines in service or on order.