Oct. 17--A new airplane engine produced by a Butler County company is moving ahead in testing and has an order backlog stronger than last year's, company leaders said Wednesday.
As of the end of September, West Chester Twp.-based CFM International had surpassed engine orders compared to 2012 orders, company officers said in a conference call. The company recorded 1,094 orders for its CFM56 engine and 1,102 orders for its new LEAP engine, they said.
That tops the 1,972 total engines ordered through all of 2012, said CFM, a joint venture of Evendale-based GE Aviation and French firm Snecma.
Jean-Paul Ebanga, CFM president and chief executive, noted that in the past 15 years, air traffic has doubled. He expects a similar increase in the next 15 years.
Recently, European plane producer Airbus predicted that air traffic will grow 4.7 percent annually, requiring nearly 30,000 passenger and freight airplanes to be built by 2032. Of those, more than 10,000 new, more efficient planes will replace existing planes, Airbus said.
In addition, a study by U.S. airplane producer Boeing last summer predicted a demand for up to 23,000 single-aisle airliners over the next 20 years, good news for CFM, which addresses that market.
"The longtime prospect is very strong and bright," Ebanga said in a conference call with journalists.
CFM plans to produce more than 1,700 engines a year as it moves from the CFM56 engine to the new LEAP. That's good news for Unison Technologies in Beavercreek, which makes ducts and tubes for both engines.
Asked in the conference call about heavy competition -- especially against a new Pratt & Whitney engine -- CFM leaders said CFM is moving ahead with the LEAP at what they consider the right pace.
"It's not about catching up (to Pratt & Whitney)," CFM spokeswoman Jamie Jewell said. "We're on the schedule we laid out."
Chaker Charour, CFM executive vice president, said testing of the LEAP is proceeding. Ahead are icing and "torture" tests, the latter test probing the engine's performance at maximum speeds for extended periods. The testing is being conducted in Peebles, Ohio.
"I'm proud and very happy to tell you this engine is running smoothly," Charour said. "This engine wants to run."
CFM has touted the LEAP engine as providing less noise, fuel consumption and emissions. The new engine, launched in 2008, is designed for single-aisle aircraft.
GE Aviation has about 1,300 employees in Dayton, Beavercreek and Vandalia. Unison has grown by about 100 employees in the past four years.
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