Paris '99 will be something of a show anniversary edition for engine manufacturer CFM International. The company - a joint venture between General Electric and Snecma - is celebrating its 25th birthday, the 20th anniversary of its first orders, and during the show it will deliver the 10,000th CFM56 engine. However, CFMI president and chief executive officer Gerard Laviec is maintaining silence on the subject of exactly which engine will be the 10,000th to roll of the production line. On Monday, he will mark the occasion with simultaneous presentations to both Airbus and Boeing. "We have not decided which engine is the 10,000th, so they both are," says a diplomatic Laviec. Interview by Karen Walker

Q What message will CFMI be delivering at the Paris Air Show?

A First, of course, will be the various anniversaries that we will celebrate, including the 20th anniversary of our first orders - to Delta Air Lines, Flying Tigers and United Airlines. Most of the contributors to this joint venture will be at Paris. Building on that message, and illustrating that the success continues, we will be able to talk about our current position, with 270 existing customers and 13,400 firm orders. The message we are sending is that we are committed to supporting our customers, not only by providing customer support worldwide but also by continuing to improve our engine and by preparing for the future through our technology plans.

Q CFMI's TECH56 programme is about developing advanced technologies for the CFM56. How is that programme coming along?

A TECH56 is now in the middle of its three-year development cycle and the programme is progressing very well. All the new technology should be ready to be assessed by next year and we feel confident.

TECH56 proves the commitment of the two venture partners to the existing product, to retrofits and also to a new engine in the future.

Q In 1998, CFMI took a record number of orders. How is 1999 shaping up?

A This year we are going to break our production record by quite a long way. We will produce more than four engines a day to build more than 1,000 engines total. That should break down to about 60% -7s and 40% -5s. 1999 will be the peak because later this year we will stop producing the -3 for the Classic 737.

But we think that this year is going to be similar to 1998 in terms of our position in the marketplace. We have forecast orders for between 600 and 800 engines and it looks as if that forecast will be correct. If there are 800 orders, we will be quite satisfied.

Q How concerned are you about the next industry downturn?

A Of course, orders will be down from last year's record 1,324 and we are beginning to see a general slowdown. But we were expecting that. Last year's figure was so high that we knew it could not continue at that level. But we are prepared and what we predicted is what is happening. 1998 was also our best year in terms of being selected and in terms of maintaining our lead position in the marketplace.

Q Competition to power the next generation of narrowbody aircraft is becoming increasingly fierce. As the overwhelmingly dominant supplier to this market segment, how concerned are you about that position being eroded?

A Our long term position is to make sure that we are able to support our customers and do not have to reduce that support because we are suffering financial problems. Our strategy is to stay sound financially because that way we can bring the best to our customers. We know that our customers expect excellence in terms of product reliability and support.

One of our best customers is Herb Kelleher at Southwest Airlines. He sets very high standards, but he says we are great because we provide the level of support he demands. That standard will always be our objective and it is what keeps us confident we can maintain our lead position.

Q Airlines are increasingly being confronted with the issue of engine noise and emissions, especially in Europe. What is your view on the importance of this issue worldwide?

A This is a major concern among all airlines. I recently attended the International Air Transport Association's annual meeting in Rio de Janeiro and there was a panel devoted to discussing this subject. It has become much more of a global issue, but for Europe in particular there is much more concern about air pollution.

We are prepared for that issue with our dual annular combuster (DAC) on the -5 and -7. Swissair was the launch customer for this on the A320 and SAS for the new generation 737.

We went ahead with the DAC because we think this will be a major issue in the long term and the DAC reduces emissions by 40% as well as noise.

We will make further improvements, reducing also hydrocarbons and carbon dioxides. While this has apparently not yet become an issue outside of Europe - I say apparently because I think people have simply just avoided talking about it - we are convinced that this will be the issue of the future and we are prepared.

Q Do you expect to make any new order announcements during the show?

A We always rely on Airbus or Boeing to make the announcements. But I think there will be announcements - and perhaps a surprise or two.

Source: Flight Daily News