CFM could LEAP ahead with huge AA order

The battle to power the A320neo may have swung in CFM’s favour following reports that American Airlines (AA) intends to order the LEAP engine over Pratt & Whitney’s PW1000 geared turbofan.

Reuters sources have said that AA will buy 200 CFM engines for its 100-strong A320neo order (AA originally committed to 130 A320neos in 2011, but switched 30 units to options this April).

Until now A320neo customers have been fairly evenly split on engine choice between CFM, P&W and those that are yet to decide. The AA deal, however, would catapult CFM ahead on the A320neo, with 1,934 of its engines ordered worldwide versus 1,806 for P&W – according to data on website Pdxlight.

While P&W will expect to make up lost ground over the next few years, it will still hurt to have been rejected by an airline that had previously selected Pratt’s V2500 over the CFM56 for current-generation A321s.

That hope was bolstered by Lufthansa’s recent decision to split its A320neo power requirements between CFM and Pratt, a sensible strategy when buying large volumes of unproven technology.

AA, instead, appears to have opted for the benefits of fleet commonality, adding the A320neo-oriented LEAP-1As to the LEAP-1Bs that will power the 100 737MAXs it has on order.

Having a maintenance arm with a smaller third-party business than Lufthansa Technik’s may have also influenced AA’s decision to restrict its aftermarket capabilities to one engine type.

Yet it may transpire that AA ties an engine order to a full-service MRO agreement with CFM, a course that Lufthansa rejected with both CFM and P&W.

Although such a deal would guarantee huge future revenues for CFM, P&W might actually prefer it to AA maintaining the LEAP in house and offering those services to other airlines.

If that were to happen the maintenance equation could tilt decisively towards CFM in the United States, causing more carriers in the region to plump for the LEAP over the PW1000.

Enough crystal ball gazing, though: this is speculation built upon speculation. Let’s wait for an official order from AA before we start examining the aftermarket ramifications.

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