$4.7 Billion Engine Deal Caps CFM’s Record Year

CFM International, a joint venture between GE Aviation and the French engine manufacturer Snecma, added a multi-billion dollar order, bringing the total to $47.5 billion in 2011 (U.S. list price).

The company announced this morning that that the low fare carrier Southwest Airlines would purchase a total of 416 engines valued at $4.7 billion. The order includes 300 innovative LEAP engines to power the airline’s 150 new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, and 116 CFM56 engines for 58 planes of the existing 737 model.

GE and Snecma, a member of the Safran Group, each hold a 50 percent stake in CFM. The new airplanes will begin delivery in 2017.

CFM started working on the LEAP engine, short for Leading Edge Aviation Propulsion, in 2005. The goal was to develop a high-bypass turbofan engine that radically increases the fuel efficiency of narrow-body aircraft that carry between 100 and 250 passengers and fly within a 4,000-mile range.

The result is a highly reliable engine with lower maintenance costs that can achieve double-digit improvements in fuel burn and emissions.

For example, the ecomagination-qualified LEAP can save up to 15 percent in fuel costs, compared to current CFM models in its class. That’s as much as $12 million per aircraft over 15 years, at $2.50 per gallon of fuel.

These saving are possible because the engine incorporates many breakthrough features and technologies. Consider, for example, that the air passing through the engine is much hotter than the melting point of the materials inside the jet engine. These higher operating temperatures known as thermal efficiency result in lesser fuel use. CFM engineers have developed an innovative way to transfer heat from the engine so that it can burn hot and clean and conserve fuel.

LEAP’s composite fan blade design and innovative three-dimensional, woven resin transfer molding (RTM) manufacturing process lower the engine’s weight, make it more fuel efficient, and improve maintenance.