Part of the CFM56’s enduring appeal is the depth of its maintenance market, with OEMs, airlines and independent shops providing global aftermarket coverage.
The engine’s manufacturer states that 42 facilities perform CFM56 overhauls, and lessors often claim that CFM56 residual values are buoyed by its competitive maintenance options.
CFM has promised to keep maintenance costs for the LEAP at similar levels to modern CFM56 variants such as the -7 and -5, and has declared itself happy to stick with an open maintenance market.
At the same time, however, the OEM has strengthened its presence in the aftermarket: More than half of the roughly 12,000 LEAP engine backlog has been sold with an OEM support contract, while only about a third of the current CFM56 fleet of almost 25,000 engines is overhauled by either GE or Safran.
In addition, whereas the two CFM partners used to compete for maintenance contracts, they now cooperate through CFM Services.
The acid test for whether CFM is serious about retaining an open maintenance market will be the access it grants to LEAP technical documentation.
By restricting this access widebody engine OEMs have made it near impossible for third-party providers to offer competing aftermarket services on certain powerplants, a trend airlines do not want to see extended to the new generation of single-aisle engines.
According to Aviation Week’s 2017 Commercial Aviation Fleet & MRO Forecast, the CFM56 maintenance market will grow to about $10 billion by 2026, making it one of the most valuable sources of revenue for independent and airline MRO providers.
LEAP maintenance, meanwhile, will be worth more than $4 billion by 2026. It will be interesting to see where that money is directed.