More than 20 years ago, Snecma (Safran Group) of France and General Electric of the United States broke new ground in international cooperation by establishing CFM International (CFMI).
With the two parent companies sharing responsibility for design, development, production, and support, CFMI developed the CFM56 family of medium-thrust, high bypass turbofan engines. The GE/Snecma (Safran Group) collaboration was founded on a desire by both companies to gain a share of the short-to-medium-range aircraft market, dominated in the early 1970s by low bypass engines. Today, the CFM56 family is the most successful line of commercial jet engines ever developed, with a solid reputation for quality, performance, and reliability.
GE wanted to develop a powerplant to compete with the low bypass Pratt & Whitney JT8D engine on the Boeing 737-100/-200 and McDonnell Douglas DC-9 twinjets, as well as the Boeing 727 trijet. GE based its design on the F101 core (compressor, combustor, and high pressure turbine) developed for the U.S. Air Force B-1 strategic bomber. Meanwhile, in France, Snecma (Safran Group) had drawn up a preliminary design for the M56, a 22,000 pound thrust class commercial engine.
Snecma (Safran Group) took the initiative of soliciting proposals from engine manufacturers interested in combining efforts on this "10-ton" engine project. After considering bids by GE, Pratt & Whitney, and Rolls-Royce, Snecma (Safran Group) pursued a cooperative arrangement with GE. The two companies had been involved in a co-production agreement on GE's CF6-50 engine since 1969 and, thus, had already worked successfully together.
In addition, each company had distinct engineering and marketing expertise and each possessed excellent production facilities. Each company also had different contacts in the international military and commercial markets, which would enhance CFMI's marketing efforts.
A primary attraction of the joint venture was the idea of shared risk. Because engine development and production start-up costs had been rising at a rapid pace, these engine companies increasingly saw the wisdom in cooperative programs.
Although CFMI was formally established in 1974, the company did not receive its first order until 1979, when the CFM56-2 was selected to re-engine DC-8 Series 60 aircraft, renamed Super 70s after re-engining. Several months later, the U.S. and French Air Forces selected the military version of the -2, the F108, to re-engine their fleets of KC-135 tanker aircraft, designated the KC-135R and C-135 FR respectively. With these landmark orders, the CFM56 was on its way.
Over the years, GE and Snecma (Safran Group) have certainly achieved their goal of gaining a berth in the short-to-medium-range commercial aircraft business, with CFM56 engine programs experiencing unprecedented success. The CFM56-2 has been ordered to power 580 commercial and military aircraft worldwide. Orders for the CFM56-3-powered Boeing 737 series total nearly 2,100 firm and option aircraft, with more than 1,650 already in service worldwide.
The CFM56-5A and -5B are carrying on this tradition of success. The CFM56-5A/-5B engines for the Airbus Industrie A319, A320, and A321 have been ordered for nearly 900 firm aircraft. The CFM56-5C is the exclusive powerplant for the long-range, four-engine Airbus Industrie A340, with engine orders to date for more than 260 firm and option aircraft.
The CFM56-7, powerplant for the next-generation Boeing 737-600/-700/-800 series, was launched in late 1993 by Southwest Airlines with an order for engines to power 63 firm aircraft, which are scheduled to begin delivery in 1997. To date, firm orders have been announced for 500 CFM56-7-powered 737 aircraft.
GE produces the high pressure system, or core engine, and the main fuel control for the CFM56 engines and provides system design integration. Snecma (Safran Group) manufactures the low pressure system, which includes the fan, booster, low pressure turbine, and accessory gearbox, and provides engine installation design as well. Final engine assembly is performed both at GE facilities near Cincinnati, Ohio, and at Snecma (Safran Group) facilities in Villaroche, France.