September 16, 2013
When CFM International announced the Leap engine in 2008, it was indeed a leap of faith. As with the launch of the original CFM56 in the 1970s, the General Electric-Snecma joint venture sanctioned the go-ahead of the all-new engine despite having no customer and no firm contract.
Yet, just as with the CFM56, the partners were certain the market for Leap was there; it was simply a matter of time—and timing. Unlike the CFM56, which got its big break on Douglas DC-8 and Boeing KC-135 re-engining deals while still seeking its first twinjet application, the Leap market was always going to be primarily the next generation of Airbus and Boeing narrowbodies. The initial version of the engine, the Leap-1A, which fired up for the first time at GE's Peebles, Ohio, test site on Sept. 4, is designed for the Airbus A320neo.