CFM International’s new LEAP engine family won’t enter service for quite a few months yet, but already it is either the second highest-selling commercial jet engine family of all time or it is close to becoming so. CFM has already received firm orders and other commitments for nearly 10,000 examples of the three initial LEAP models.
The best-selling commercial jet engine ever is the first engine family the CFM International joint venture developed, the CFM56. Some 28,000 CFM56s have already been delivered and CFM holds outstanding orders for 4,000 more.
So it will be a long time before the CFM56 cedes its market-leading position to any other engine. But CFM will hope that if this happens its new engine family will take over top spot.
Gareth Richards, GE Aviation’s LEAP programme director, says one of the hallmarks of the CFM56 programme is that CFM has always been happy for the MRO market for the engine family to be open.
Through the separate CFM Services JV, CFM itself offers MRO for the CFM56 and it also has a network of licensed MRO shops handling the engine. But CFM also has no problem with independent shops providing CFM56 MRO as well.
In hindsight, this has been a wise attitude: the extensive selection of shops competing for CFM56 business may well have stimulated sales of the engine over the years.
From the outset CFM International’s MRO policy for the LEAP family will be the same as its policy for the CFM56, according to Richards.
“We have declared our intention for it to be the same for LEAP,” says Richards. “We hear it very loud from our customers, particularly lessors, that the residual value of the CFM product line is significantly higher for that reason.”
That said, CFM Services expects to win a significantly higher proportion of LEAP MRO business than it has on the CFM56, for three reasons.
One is that, “in the history of CFM, the service offerings [for the CFM56] came in the middle of its history, after 20 years,” says Richards. However, CFM Services is competing for LEAP MRO contracts from the outset.
Second, GE and Snecma originally competed with each other for CFM56 aftermarket business, before beginning to cooperate within the CFM Services JV. A result of this is that the individual partners are each still handling a few legacy CFM56 MRO contracts.
Third is that CFM Services’ expectation of its MRO competitiveness for the LEAP family is based on already-achieved results.
CFM Services is in the privileged position of being able to offer MRO contracts for LEAP engines even while CFM International salespeople are still trying to close the engine-purchase contracts.
So it’s not surprising to hear Richards say CFM Services has won MRO contracts for more than 50 per cent of all LEAP engines sold to date.
While ultimately the LEAP MRO network will be open, it won’t be that way immediately upon the engine entering service. At that point very little MRO will be required but nevertheless an MRO capability will need to be in place to deal with unexpected engine damage and removals.
So, when the LEAP family enters service, CFM will have “three MRO shops ready to go”, according to Richards.
One will be at Brussels, one at Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines near Paris and the third will be at West Lafayette, Indiana, next to the new LEAP final-assembly line GE Aviation is building there.
CFM Services will establish more of its own LEAP MRO shops later and “there will also be CFM- licensed shops and also fully independent, competing MROs”, according to Richards.
The entire air transport industry will find this important to hear. If CFM International employs for the LEAP family the open-network MRO principles it established for the CFM56, the LEAP programme seems poised one day to take over its forebear’s throne.