LONDON, England July 13, 2008 CFM International has launched LEAP-X, an entirely new baseline turbofan engine to power future replacements for current narrow-body aircraft. This engine will incorporate revolutionary technologies developed over the last three years as part of the LEAP56 technology acquisition program.
The first full demonstrator engine is scheduled to run in 2012, and LEAP-X could be certified by 2016. This advanced new turbofan will reduce the engine contribution to aircraft fuel burn by up to 16 percent compared to current CFM56 Tech Insertion engines that power Airbus A320 and Boeing Next-Generation 737 aircraft. Additional fuel burn improvements will be achieved once this engine is paired with new aircraft technology.
CFM International (CFM) is a 50/50 joint venture between Snecma (Safran Group) and General Electric Company. The two parent companies have just signed an agreement renewing their partnership until the year 2040, ensuring that all engines in the 18,000 to 50,000 pound thrust class developed in that timeframe will fall under the CFM umbrella.
"When we launched the LEAP56 technology development program in 2005, fuel was at $1.30 a gallon," said Eric Bachelet. "Today, airlines are paying nearly $4.00 a gallon. Our customers are hurting and we are responding. LEAP56 is the single largest investment in technology in our history; we are bringing the full technical and financial resources of our parent companies to bear to give them a solution: LEAP-X. We have set aggressive targets for this engine, and the technology plan is in place to achieve them."
The foundation of the LEAP-X engine is heavily rooted in advanced aerodynamics, environmental, and materials technology development programs. For more than 15 years, Snecma has been developing composite fan blade technology. More recently, the company has focused on the revolutionary three-dimensional, woven resin transfer molding (3-DW RTM) technology that dramatically reduces engine weight while providing a more durable blade. Development of Ceramic Matrix Composite (CMC) technology has been underway at GE for more than 25 years. This ultra-light-weight material can support the extremely high temperatures found in the high-pressure turbine. Titanium-Aluminide (Ti-Aluminide), a lightweight alloy that has been under development for the past 20 years, will also be incorporated into the engine.
In late 2008, CFM will perform a series of full-scale fan demonstrator engine tests with the 3-DW RTM fan blades being developed as part of Snecma's MASCOT program. The engine will complete extensive performance ground tests at Snecma facilities in Villaroche, France, before being transported to GE's outdoor test facility in Peebles, Ohio, for acoustic and crosswind testing. This innovative new composite technology reduces engine weight by approximately 400 pounds and the fan blade count by 25 percent.
The first full core is scheduled to begin testing next year. Hardware for the core, which features an eight-stage compressor and single-stage turbine, is being produced now and the core is targeted to fire by mid-2009. A second core test is also planned.
"We are excited about this new engine, but we also think we need to remain flexible," said Bachelet. "If fuel prices continue to rise, we will need to raise the bar even higher and introduce even more advanced technology. For the next three years, we are pursuing parallel paths: the LEAP-X advanced turbofan and the open rotor. The foundational technologies support either architecture, and we are making good progress toward finding solutions for the inherent technical challenges of an open rotor configuration."
CFM is currently conducting studies in four areas for the open rotor configuration: fan aerodynamics and acoustics; mechanical design, including a pitch change mechanism; aircraft installation; and certification methodology. Technology demonstration tests begin next year and will extend through 2011.