The completion of the biennial Paris Air Show marks a time when orders are tallied and success is measured. The battle for orders between Airbus and Boeing is not new; however, with each airframe sold, suppliers also reap the rewards, particularly engine manufacturers.
One such company, more specifically, a joint venture – CFM International – had much success at the show. As GE Aviation and Safran’s brainchild, CFM is known for its CFM56 line of engines, which is also known as the F108 in military parlance. The days of this famed engine are numbered; however, as its successor, the Leading Edge Aviation Propulsion (LEAP) engine supplants the CFM56 as the company’s flagship powerplant.
The popularity of the aircraft that incorporate the LEAP ensures that the engine’s future will be bright. The Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 have long dominated the narrowbody market, and with the new Chinese-built COMAC C919, the LEAP has plenty of airframes to power. The market is truly vast. As of the end of May 2017, the backlog for the 737 MAX family of aircraft stood at 3,697. The competition from Airbus is stiff, with a backlog of 4,937 through May 2017 for the A320neo family of narrowbodies. As an option for the new Airbus A320neo family, and the sole option for the Boeing 737 MAX family and the COMAC C919, the LEAP engine will see service throughout the world.
The LEAP engine utilizes many new technologies that increase overall performance. The engine employs additive manufacturing (3D printing) for its fuel nozzles, ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) for the turbine shrouds, and 3D-woven carbon-fiber blades. CFM says that these enhancements allow for a 15 percent improvement in fuel consumption over the CFM56 while maintaining the same reliability.
Orders for the LEAP were strong at the Paris Air Show, with the vast majority of CFM sales being LEAP engines and support. Over 1,600 LEAP engines were sold at the show, which accounted for the bulk of the $27.3 billion CFM accrued over the week-long event. As an option for the A320neo family, the LEAP garnered orders that represented a substantial portion of the aircraft sold. Indeed, of the orders secured at the Paris Air Show, 842 were for LEAP-1A engines that power the A320neo. Unlike the A320neo, every 737 MAX is powered by a LEAP engine, and therefore this exclusivity will bode well for the LEAP-1B model as the aforementioned backlogs have demonstrated their popularity.
Forecast International’s Platinum Forecast System predicts the manufacture of LEAP engines will rapidly increase over the next three years as the engine replaces the CFM56 on the production line. Despite a peak in 2020 and a downturn in 2021 and 2022, production will remain relatively steady, hovering at over 2,000 units per year to 2031.