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Next-generation jet engine under tests

News International-French

11 Sep 2013

Engineers at GE’s Peebles test operation in Ohio have started testing jet engines designed for next-generation passenger aircraft: the LEAP-1A which contains 3D printed fuel nozzles, fourth-generation carbon-fiber composite blades, and parts made from ceramic matrix composites.

The ceramics can operate at temperatures as high as 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit where most alloys grow soft. They are also two-thirds lighter than the metal equivalent.

The engine fired for the first time on September 4, two days ahead of schedule. After a series of break-in runs, the engine was operating smoothly and had reached full take-off thrust.

The tests will evaluate various engine systems and operability. Chaker Chahrour, executive vice president of CFM International, a joint venture between GE Aviation and France’s Snecma (Safran ), says that when he and his team are done in 2016, they will have gone through 60 different engine builds for both ground and flight testing, and simulated more than 15 years or airline service. (A build is defined as the same basic engine that has been disassembled for inspection and then rebuilt to continue testing. It may or may not include new hardware.)

The team will be testing the engine at the Peebles site for the next several weeks. In early 2014, the second build of the engine will begin icing tests at GE’s testing site in Winnipeg, Canada, where winter temperatures dip regularly below zero degrees Fahrenheit.

CFM is developing three versions of the LEAP engine for three different single-aisle aircraft. The LEAP-1A engine will serve on Airbus A320neo planes. The LEAP-1B will power Boeing 737MAX jets, and the LEAP-1C will propel COMAC’s C919 aircraft.

CFM executives said that its new engine, which is part of GE’s ecomagination portfolio, would improve fuel consumption by 15 percent and deliver an equivalent reduction in CO2 emissions compared to today’s best CFM engine. It will also bring “dramatic reductions” in engine noise and emissions, the company said in a news release.

CFM has received orders for 5,446 LEAP engines valued over $70 billion. They include orders from carriers like AirAsia, Southwest, Virgin America, Lion Air, Pegasus, Qantas, WestJet and dozens of other airlines around the world.

The testing program for the LEAP-1A engine will culminate in engine certification in 2015. The first entry into commercial service on the Airbus A320neo is planned for 2016.

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