The first core of CFM International's advanced LEAP-X development program has begun its 100-hour ground test program in a special altitude test chamber at GE Aviation facilities in Evendale, Ohio, as the full-scale LEAP RTM (Resin Transfer Molding) composite fan is completing extensive cross-wind and acoustics tests at GE's unique outdoor test facility in Peebles, Ohio. The core fired on June 12.
LEAP-X is the new centerline engine being developed to power the next-generation of short-to-medium range aircraft likely to enter the market in the next decade. The first full demonstrator engine is scheduled to run in 2012, and LEAP-X could be certified by 2016.
"We are very pleased with the progress we have made in the past 12 months," said Eric Bachelet. "The program is absolutely on the schedule we laid out at last year's Farnborough Air Show, and the results we have gotten to date have been highly encouraging across the board. We set very aggressive targets for this engine and our technology plan is validating that we are going to achieve them. LEAP-X is going to be a fantastic engine and a worthy successor the industry-leading CFM56 family."
The goals for LEAP-X include reducing 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. This will bring a comparable improvement in CO2 emissions. LEAP-X is also being designed to reduced NOx emissions by 50 - 60 percent compared to the current International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) CAEP 6 limits. The incorporation of advanced composite materials and alloys will help reduce engine weight and contribute to the lower fuel burn.
Technology highlights of the revolutionary LEAP-X engine include:
- 3-D Woven Resin Transfer Molding (RTM) composite fan and case: This Snecma proprietary technology has been under development for several years and will dramatically reduce engine weight while providing a more durable blade. In January 2009, CFM initiated ground test of a full-scale RTM fan installed on a CFM56-5C engine. The program, dubbed MASCOT (Moteur à Aubes de Soufflante en Composite Taille), is validating this revolutionary technology in a CFM-sized fan.
At Snecma facilities in Villaroche, France, the MASCOT engine completed aerodynamic and performance testing before going to Peebles. It has successfully completed extensive crosswind testing and is currently undergoing acoustics testing to measure noise levels under various operating conditions.
The engine will return to France in the coming weeks and will begin endurance testing that is scheduled to run through the end of the year. Results to date are very positive and are inline with pre-test expectation and CFM will continue to refine and test various blade designs to identify the optimum configuration for the first LEAP-X demo engine test in 2012. The LEAP-X fan will feature 18 blades, a 50 percent reduction versus the CFM56-5C and 25 percent fewer blades than the CFM56-7B.
- Advanced core: The LEAP core currently undergoing ground testing features an 8-stage compressor, advanced Twin-Annular Pre-Swirling mixer (TAPS II) combustor, and a single-stage high-pressure turbine. This is the first application of CFM parent company GE Aviations" engine core development program known as "eCore".
The ~100-hour test program will focus on aerodynamic performance parameters; the aeromechanical properties of the blades and how they respond to vibration and natural frequencies; and operability to ensure the engine maintains the CFM reputation for stall-free operation.
The test will also give a view as to how the TAPS II combustor operates within an engine environment. CFM successfully completed a full-annular rig test of the combustor earlier this year; now CFM can map the response to an actual compressor flow field and the temperature profile exiting the combustor into the turbine.
The unique core test facility allows CFM to put the hardware through its paces by simulating both ground and altitude conditions over a much greater operating range than could be conducted with a full engine test. It allows engineers to see how the core behaves outside of standard operating conditions at extremes the hardware would never encounter in typical commercial airline service
The foundation of the LEAP-X engine is heavily rooted in advanced aerodynamics, environmental, and materials technology development programs. In addition to Snecma's RTM fan, GE has been developing Ceramic Matrix Composite (CMC) technology for more than 25 years. This ultra-light-weight material can support the extremely high temperatures found in the high-pressure turbine.