Ryanair, the Irish budget airline, placed a $16 billion order to buy 175 new Boeing 737 aircraft yesterday, pending shareholder approval. The new fleet will use 350 jet engines made by CFM, a joint venture between GE and Safran’s subsidiary Snecma, and valued at $3.5 billion (U.S. list price).
But the big numbers only hint at the big picture. CFM has nearly 10,000 jet engines on back order. This includes 5,450 engines from the CFM56 family, like those for the Ryanair planes, and more than 4,500 innovative LEAP engines for next-generation passenger jets like Boeing 737 Max, Airbus A320neo, and COMAC C919.
The flying public will also benefit. Many of the new CFM engines will power single-aisle planes that can ferry passengers between secondary hubs, expand service, and ease congestion at the busiest airports.
The CFM56 engine line is now sold out for four years. The LEAP engine, which is currently in development, will enter service in 2016.
Hanging in there: The CFM56 is the world’s best-selling jet engine. Its successor, the LEAP engine, will enter service in 2016.
Where the CFM56 is the world’s bestselling jet engine, CFM has delivered nearly 25,000 engines since 1981 and some 18,000 are still in service, the LEAP may be the most innovative. Fan blades made from 3-D woven carbon fiber composite lower its weight. The LEAP engine core (eCore, for short) includes parts made from a revolutionary new material called ceramic matrix composite (CMC) and developed at GE Global Research. The material can work at temperatures as high as 2,400 F, higher than any advanced alloy. Since more heat inside a jet engine equals more power, the material helps deliver a “15 percent better fuel performance compared to the CFM56 baseline with the same maintenance costs and reliability, which is world class,” says Dale Carlson, manager of advanced programs at GE Aviation. “Because of our innovation, we don’t need to use complex systems such as gearboxes and other tricks.”