CFM International has identified potential orders for up to 150 Airbus A318s which it hopes to secure within the next few months, following the formal selection of the CFM56-5B by Air France to power 15 aircraft on firm order and 10 on option in a deal worth around $150 million.

The CFM56 gained its foothold on the A318 after Air France exerted enormous pressure on Airbus to have a competing powerplant to Pratt & Whitney's PW6000 turbofan. This had been selected by Airbus as the principal engine choice for the new 100-seater following the launch of the programme last April. The first PW6000-powered A318 is due to enter service in the last quarter of 2002 while the CFM56-powered version will enter service during 2003. The -5B on the A318 is provisionally rated at 22,000lb thrust (98kN), though the US-French engine manufacturer is expected to narrow down the exact rating level by early next year.

Prime targets in CFMI's search for new orders are believed to include Air Canada, Lufthansa, Northwest Airlines and General Electric-owned leasing and financing arm GE Capital Aviation Services. All are operators of CFM56-5 powered A320 family members and all have indicated interest in a new generation 100-seater such as the A318 or competing Boeing 717. Of the group, Northwest's requirement is believed to represent the largest single number with a firm requirement for up to 75 aircraft.

Meanwhile, CFMI denies that the French Government propped up its bid by offering to help fund part of the certification costs. "It simply isn't true," says the engine maker, which acknowledges that it is contributing to the cost of the engine-airframe certification as part of a "standard agreement" between itself and Airbus.

It was protracted negotiations over this cost that largely delayed the formal announcement of the Air France deal until now, says the engine maker.

The French Government has granted support aid to Hispano-Suiza as part of its work on the A318's propulsion system and nacelle, which in the case of the PW6000 is being produced by the Aircell consortium.

Source: Flight International