Development of CFM International's advanced LEAP-X, an entirely new baseline turbofan engine to power future replacements for current narrow-body aircraft, is continuing on schedule with a target to run the first full demonstrator engine in 2012. The engine could potentially be certified by 2016.
This engine will incorporate revolutionary technologies developed over the last three years as part of the LEAP56 technology acquisition program. 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.
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.
CFM is currently conducting full-scale fan demonstrator engine tests with the 3-DW RTM fan blades 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, which is currently in build-up, is scheduled to begin testing by mid-2009. A second core test is also planned.
CFM is currently also conducting studies in four areas for an open rotor configuration: fan aerodynamics and acoustics; mechanical design, including a pitch change mechanism; aircraft installation; and certification methodology. Technology demonstration tests begin later this year and extend through 2011.
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.