Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China Selects CFM LEAP-X as Sole Western Engine for New C919 Airliner
Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) has selected the LEAP-X1C engine from CFM International—the 50/50 venture between GE and SAFRAN Group—as the sole Western jet engine to launch its new C919 150-passenger single-aisle aircraft, due to enter service in 2016. COMAC forecasts a potential market of more than 2,000 aircraft over 20 years once the C919 enters airline service.
The LEAP-X is rooted in advanced aerodynamics and materials technologies, such as ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) and Titanium-Aluminide. This new turbofan will reduce the engine contribution to aircraft fuel burn by up to 16% compared to current CFM56 Tech Insertion engines powering Airbus A320 and Boeing Next-Generation 737 aircraft. LEAP-X is also being designed to reduce NOx emissions by 50 - 60% compared to the current International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) CAEP 6 limits through the use of an Annular Pre-Swirl (TAPS) combustor. The incorporation of advanced composite materials and alloys will help reduce engine weight and contribute to the lower fuel burn. (Earlier post.)
LEAP-X, which was formally launched in 2008, is a totally new centerline engine and the development program has been progressing steadily since it was launched in mid-2008. In November, the first core of CFM International’s advanced LEAP-X development program, eCore 1, successfully completed the first phase of testing in a special altitude test chamber at GE Aviation facilities in Evendale, Ohio. The core, which began testing on schedule on June 12, 2009, ran for approximately 35 hours. (Earlier post.)
The heavily instrumented core, which is scheduled to go back on test in early 2010, tests approximately 2,000 different engine parameters. The unique core test facility allows CFM to put the hardware through its paces by simulating both ground and altitude conditions over a much greater operating range than could be conducted with a full engine test. It allows engineers to see how the core behaves outside of standard operating conditions at extremes the hardware would never encounter in typical commercial airline service.
The current test program focuses on aerodynamic performance parameters; the aeromechanical properties of the blades and how they respond to vibration and natural frequencies; and operability to ensure the engine maintains the CFM reputation for stall-free operation. All of the data collected from these tests will feed into eCore 2, which features a two-stage turbine and is on schedule to get ground tests in mid-2011.
A large contributor to the increased fuel efficiency of the engine is an all-new composite fan blade produced with three-dimensional, woven resin transfer molding (3-DW RTM) technology that dramatically reduces engine weight while providing a more durable blade. The new composite technology enables a reduction in engine weight by approximately 400 pounds and in the fan blade count to 18, a 50% reduction versus the CFM56-5C and 25% fewer blades than the CFM56-7B.
This Snecma proprietary technology has been under development for several years and will dramatically reduce engine weight while providing a more durable blade. In January 2009, CFM initiated ground test of a full-scale RTM fan installed on a CFM56-5C engine. The program, dubbed MASCOT (Moteur à Aubes de Soufflante en COmposite Taille), is validating this technology in a CFM-sized fan.
At Snecma facilities in Villaroche, France, the MASCOT engine completed aerodynamic and performance testing before going to Peebles. It has successfully completed extensive crosswind testing and is currently undergoing acoustics testing to measure noise levels under various operating conditions. The engine has been returned to France and is scheduled to begin a grueling 5,000-cycle endurance test in early 2010.
COMAC selected a complete Integrated Propulsion System (IPS) for the C919 from GE and SAFRAN. CFM will provide the engines, and, Nexcelle will provide the nacelle and thrust reverser. Nexcelle is a 50/50 joint venture between GE’s Middle River Aircraft Systems and SAFRAN Group’s Aircelle.
In recent years, GE Aviation has dramatically expanded its support of China aviation. GE is already collaborating with COMAC on its new ARJ21 regional jet, which is powered by GE’s CF34 engine. More than 1,000 airliners in China operate with GE or CFM engines. CFM has developed jet engines for more than 35 years, and today is one of the most successful aerospace joint ventures with more than 20,000 engines delivered.