Thirty years ago, April 24, 1982, Delta Air Lines operated the first CFM56-powered revenue flight when a newly re-engined McDonnell Douglas DC-8-71 flew between Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia.
The DC-8 re-engining deal was a life saver for CFM which, incredibly, was within two weeks of official cancellation when the order came through in March 1979. Although formed by General Electric and Snecma in 1974 amid great expectations of twin-jet projects, it was the unexpected re-engining of the noisy, quad-jet DC-8 and KC-135 that became the joint venture’s salvation.
The rest, as they say, is history. CFM went on to power the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 as well as the A340. The next-generation Leap version has been launched for the 737 MAX and A320 NEO as well as Comac’s C919. Total CFM56 engine orders currently stand at 28,875 engines, of which more than 23,300 have been delivered. Through March, CFM has received orders for approximately 600 engines in 2012.
Although the DC-8s in its fleet have long since gone, Delta currently has a fleet of more than 310 CFM-powered A320 and 737 aircraft in service or on order. United Airlines, which along with Delta and Flying Tigers, placed the initial DC-8 order, has about 290 CFM-powered Boeing 737s in service or on order. The U.S. Air Force is still CFM's largest customer, with nearly 1,800 engines in service.