As CFM International prepares to update future operators of its new Leap engine here in the heat of Dubai, the first engine to run is being prepared for a series of grueling icing tests in the wintry depths of Manitoba, Canada.
The Leap-1A engine, which ran for the first time on Sep. 4 at GE’s Peebles, Ohio test site, is set to undertake cold weather evaluation in the run up to follow-on certification. The engine is destined for the re-engined Airbus A320neo, which will enter in service in 2016. The A320neo will be followed by the aero-mechanically identical Leap-1C for the Comac C919, which actually launched the new CFM engine program, as well as the architecturally common Leap-1B for Boeing’s 737MAX.
The C919 is currently set to enter service in 2017, although CFM is maintaining its original engine development schedule, which will see the -1C certificated in mid-2015. The Leap-1B is meanwhile on track to enter service on the Max in 2017. “The engine is running fantastically,” says Ted Ingling, engineering lead for the Leap-1A/C. Initial work has been focused on aero-mechanical engineering tests to look at the high-order attributes of the engine and establish that the “fundamental architecture is working as expected.”
The busy test effort quickly ramps-up before the end of this year and into 2014 when, at one point, up to 15 development engines will be running in parallel.
“That is unprecedented and that’s only part of the overall test plan,” says CFM executive vice president Chaker Chahrour. The overall test and certification program will eventually include 60 engines. Some 28 will be development engines for the A320neo, 737MAX and Comac C919, the Chinese airliner project which officially launched the Leap in late 2009, while the balance is made up of compliance engines which will power the three new airliners during their certification campaigns.
The start of engine tests comes as CFM continues to rack-up record orders for both the current CFM56-5/7 as well as the Leap models. The General Electric-Snecma joint venture company has so far this year taken orders for 2,196 engines, which already outpaces the 1,972 orders booked over the whole of 2012. The 2013 order book is so far split almost evenly between the current and next-generation engines with booking taken for 1,094 CFM56s and 1,102 Leap units so far. “The two CFM product lines are doing very well,” says CFM president Jean-Paul Ebanga. “At this stage of the Leap program we have more than 5,000 engines already on order. In terms of backlog we are in good shape and on the CFM56 our backlog is also above 5,000.”