The ceramic matrix composite (CMC) exhaust cone designed by Safran company Herakles made its first commercial flight on June 16, 2015, on a CFM56-5B* engine powering an Air France Airbus A320 jetliner. This is the first time in the world that a CMC part has flown on a jetliner in commercial service.
Safran designed, built and ground-tested the exhaust cone demonstrator, via two of its companies, Herakles (design and manufacture) and Snecma (integration).
After carrying out its initial tests on an A320 in 2012, the ceramic matrix composite exhaust cone demonstrator was certified on April 22, 2015 by the European Aviation Safety Agency (AESA) for use on commercial flights. This certification clearly confirms Safran's ability to develop advanced CMC parts that meet aviation requirements going forward.
For more than 30 years now, Safran company Herakles has developed, produced and marketed high-temperature-resistant composite materials at its Bordeaux plant, for a wide range of aerospace, defense and industrial applications These materials are based on carbon fibers and matrices, making them both strong and light. They stand up to very high temperatures and extreme environments. They are most notably used on the nozzle of the Rafale fighter and several rocket engines. For a given capability, they provide approximately 50% weight savings over even a metallic superalloy such as Inconel.
Because of their exceptional properties, ceramic matrix composites will help meet the ambitious performance goals of tomorrow's aircraft.
The CMC exhaust cone project was supported by the French government (single interministerial fund, and investment in the future program) and the Aquitaine Regional Council.
* CFM International, the 50/50 joint company between Snecma and GE, develops, produces and sells the CFM56, a family of turbofan engines that now power over 13,000 single-aisle commercial jets worldwide.