When work first began on the LEAP (Leading Edge Aviation Propulsion) engine in 2005, the objective was clear: to create a high-bypass turbofan jet engine that dramatically increases the fuel efficiency of the narrow-body planes we fly. The year was 2005.
Today, the news is official: Just ahead of next week’s 49th International Paris Air Show, Carrier Virgin America has officially launched the LEAP engine by ordering it for 30 of its new Airbus A320neo planes. Virgin also announced that the existing CFM56-5B engine will power the 30 currently-flying A320s in its fleet. The combined order totals $1.4 billion.
By achieving 15 percent more fuel efficiency gains over existing tech, the A320neo and LEAP engine will save Virgin America $1.9 million in annual fuel costs per plane while also offering double digit reductions in greenhouse gas NOx emissions. Both the LEAP and the CFM56 are made by CFM International, a joint venture between GE Aviation and French engine manufacturer Snecma. The new airplanes will begin delivery in 2016.
To explore how the innovative tech of the LEAP engine reduces costs and emissions, check out the infographic.
Virgin America President and CEO David Cush had the following to say about the deal: “Choosing LEAP gives us the best of all worlds – the most advanced technology, significant fuel savings, consistency with our current fleet and the reliability of CFM.”
Many of the engines’ cost-saving and emission-reducing features – for example, their carbon fiber composite fan blades that reduce weight – were born in GE’s Global Research Labs. The innovation didn’t stop there – advanced manufacturing techniques will reduce cost by speeding production time.
To celebrate today’s announcement, Virgin America kicked off a fare sale called, “Flyers, Start Your Engines and CFM and parent companies GE and Snecma will purchase carbon offsets for the first 5,000 flights booked today at virginamerica.com.
* Read about GE’s work on other advanced manufacturing techniques, like the “Superman” of welding tech, and 3D printing, or additive manufacturing.
* Read about and watch the test flight of the new Boeing 747-8 intercontinental, which is powered by GE’s GEnx engine.