CFM International is ready to advance the schedule of its LEAP-X program if it wins an order to power the Comac 919, the 150-200 seat jetliner proposed by China's emerging civil aerospace industry, a company official revealed to CAO.
Comac wants to begin flight testing in 2014 and targets a 2016 entry into service (EIS). Jamie Jewell, spokesperson for CFM, told CAO that the engine maker submitted a proposal to Comac that includes a version of the LEAP-X and that if selected, CFM will deliver the LEAP-X on the Comac timeline.
CFM's original timeline called for engine certification in 2016 and EIS with a replacement for the Boeing 737 or A320 in the 2018-2020 period. Boeing now talks about a 2020 replacement at the earliest, and Airbus now sets the date at 2024.
The new LEAP-X schedule makes it possible for Boeing to develop a "737RE" with an EIS around 2015-16, about the same time an A320RE might be available (see separate story).
Boeing has been cool to the prospect of re-engining the 737 because the Pratt & Whitney P1000G GTF diameter is too big. Boeing also has an exclusive supplier contract with CFM to power the 737, making selecting PW problematic in any case.
But with the news that CFM can meet a 2014 target date for a Comac test flight program and a 2016 EIS, this opens the door for a 737RE. The LEAP-X engine diameter is very close to the CFM56 now on the 737.
During the Morgan Stanley Industrial Unplugged conference 2 September, Boeing CEO James McNerney said the business case for re-engining the 737 is now better than it was previously. He made no mention of engine types but said development cost of a derivative 737 is 20%-40% that of a new aircraft.