Guy Norris talks to Pierre Fabre, president of CFM International, about the highs and lows of aerospace

Pierre Fabre, president of CFM International, is used to the ups and downs of the aerospace world. In the four years since he took the helm of the US-Franco engine maker from previous president Gerard Laviec, he has steered the company through a maelstrom of impacts ranging from the post 9/11 depression of 2001 to the debilitating effects of the Gulf War and spiraling oil prices.

Pierre Fabre

Now, in 2005, he sees all the signs of a positive, strong recovery. "The orders have been very active this year, and we think around 1,000 new engine orders would be a good ballpark figure for 2005." The growth trend is already being reflected in planned manufacturing which naturally lags orders by around 18-24 months.

"This year we'll do close to 830 engines, compared to 727 in 2004. Next year we will be close to 1,000, so it's back to the good old days of looking for parts and suppliers." Fabre says other tell-tale indicators such as shop visits and life-limited part replacement rates are also up.


CFM, like its competitor International Aero Engines (IAE), has been riding the crest of the low-cost carrier wave, with many of the large-scale orders of Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 families attributable to this continuing phenomenon. To sustain the business volumes generated by this growth, and to propagate further brand loyalty, CFM is busily engaged in developing the 'tech insertion' upgrades for the -5B and -7B engines launched last year.

Almost 15,000 CFM56 engines are now in service, of which around 1,900 are -5B engines on the current A320 family, and around 3,500 are -7Bs on the 737. With both growing at a fast rate, the potential upgrade market is becoming an increasingly attractive opportunity for the latter part of this decade and beyond. Developed from the Tech 56 technology development initiative, the 'tech insertion' programme is "on track" to enter service in the first half of 2007, says Fabre.

The improved configuration will also become production standard on the assembly line from 2007 onwards as well as being offered as an upgrade kit. The package includes improvements to the high-pressure (HP) compressor, the combustor, and the high- and low-pressure (LP) turbines. CFM says it will "lower overall operating costs through lower maintenance costs, longer time on wing, lower fuel consumption, and reduced airport taxes from lower Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) emissions."

In particular, the changes revolve around a new three-dimensional aerodynamically designed HP compressor blade design, and improved cooling in the combustor. They also include a new 'low-shock' high-pressure turbine blade contour, which was validated as part of Project TECH56.

The blade design lowers the interaction loss between the high- and low-pressure turbines. When combined with additional durability improvements, the high- and low-pressure turbines reduce fuel burn through improved efficiency, and lower maintenance costs. The design also includes a more durable low-pressure turbine nozzle with modified cooling.


The first engine to incorporate the improvements is due to be flight tested on GE's 747 testbed at Victorville, California by the end of the year. "We are discussing with Airbus and Boeing how we do it, and what is generic and what is specific. However, no matter what happens we will do a flight test with the tech insertion -7B kit on a 737 and the tech insertion -5B on the A320," says Fabre.

CFM cut its teeth in the upgrade business with the a similar kit concept for the -3 engine, of which more than 4,200 are currently in service on the various makes of 737 'Classic' aircraft. The leading customer for the kit is Southwest Airlines, which originally launched the programme in 2001 with an order for 300 kits. The airline recently placed an order for 55 additional kits valued at around $66 million, bringing approximately 80% of its 737 Classic fleet into the programme.

CFM says the upgrade is installed during normal overhaul and provides significant benefits, including: up to an 1.8% improvement in specific fuel consumption, as well as up to 22¡ additional exhaust gas temperature (EGT) margin, which reduces maintenance costs through longer on-wing life.


CFM has also launched two other kit options: the Enhanced Performance kit and the Enhanced Durability kit, aimed at lowering maintenance costs The Enhanced Performance kit includes the 3-D aero HPC blades and vanes and provides increased exhaust gas temperature (EGT) margin that translates to as much as 40% longer time on wing, depending on airline operations. The Enhanced Durability kit reduces scrap rate by 50%, thus reducing maintenance costs. CFM says this kit is available now, although only a few orders have been taken to-date.

A growing opportunity is the tantalising prospect of a new generation of Airbus and Boeing airliners to replace the A320 and 737, and the engines that will power them. Fabre says: "There is continuous pressure on fuel burn, there is the environmental aspect and there is huge pressure on noise, and some day the A320 and 737 won't be good enough. When that day is nobody knows, but to satisfy these future needs there needs to be a dramatic jump compared to today's levels. We need a breakthrough in terms of technology and so we are focusing on developing them."


Source: Flight Daily News