When it enters service, the LEAP-X jet engine will be the most fuel-efficient engine in its thrust class — designed to provide double-digit fuel burn improvements over the engine it will replace. It was recently chosen to power China’s new C919 single-aisle airliner and today Airbus announced that it’s also picked the new engine for its narrow-body A320neo, which stands for “new engine option.”
The engine has an array of technologies developed in GE’s Global Research labs, including carbon fiber composite fan blades that reduce weight and improve fuel efficiency. Advanced manufacturing technologies will also help drive costs out of the engine by speeding production time. The engine — which is being made by CFM, a 50/50 joint venture between Snecma (Safran Group) and GE — has been in development for more than a decade and was built from scratch, as opposed to being a derivative of an existing engine. That focus on new technology development follows a pattern of heavy R&D investments across GE which can also be seen in the new GEnx — where a $1 billion investment has now generated $15 billion in orders.
Officially launched during the 2008 Farnborough Airshow, the new LEAP-X is designed for narrow-body jets and has aggressive technology goals . It aims to improve fuel efficiency by 15 percent and to also cut CO2 emissions by an equivalent amount compared to the CFM56 engine that currently powers Boeing 737s and the version that powers the Airbus A320s. It’s also designed to reduce NOx (oxides of nitrogen) emissions — a greenhouse gas -– by 50 percent and substantially reduce noise.
Because the new engine will be manufactured at SAFRAN and GE facilities throughout the U.S. and France — including the hot section, or core of the engine, that GE is producing in the U.S. — the deal preserves jobs across the U.S. and E.U. over the next several decades.
Since the first A320 was launched in 1985, CFM56 engines have powered about 55 percent of them. CFM is also the leading manufacturer of commercial aircraft engines, with more than 21,500 engines delivered to more than 500 operators worldwide (in fact, a CFM-powered airplane takes off every 2 seconds).