CFM International remains confident in its predictions of a slight fuel burn advantage for the new Leap-1A over the competing Pratt & Whitney PW1100G geared turbofan on the Airbus A320neo even though the two currently remain essentially neck and neck in terms of firm engine selections.

The General Electric-Snecma joint venture has been running the first Leap-1A since Sept 4, and “the results are outstanding in every way,” says CFM executive vice president Chaker Chahrour. “We’re thrilled with the way it ran and with the mechanical integrity of the engine, as well as the early indications of performance. We have got a tremendous amount of instrumentation on it, so it’s not really built for performance, but we do pre-test predictions and we are within tenths of a percent of where we said we’d be.”

To date, CFM has taken orders for 5,830 Leap engines, a rapid climb from two years ago when only 200 Leap-1Cs were in the bag for China’s Comac C919. While CFM is the exclusive supplier to the C919 and to Boeing with the Leap-1B for the 737 MAX, Pratt’s PW1100G continues to give CFM a run for its money on the A320neo. Even with some recent additional A320neo wins for CFM announced at Dubai, the Airbus market battle remains tight. CFM has been selected for 827 firm A320neo family aircraft, against 814 announced for the Pratt engine. Overall this gives CFM 33% of the firm orders against 32% for the PW1100G, and leaves 882 aircraft – or 35% of the firm order book – still to commit to an engine type.

For now, however, the focus remains on ramping up tests on the first Airbus, Comac and Boeing engines. “Between now and June 2014 we will bring another five engines to test and by end of next year we will have 20 engines on test,” says Chahrour. These include the initial A320neo and C919 engines for flight testing on GE’s 747 flying testbeds, as well as the first Leap-1B for the 737 MAX development program. “We are midway through assembly of the first -1B with modules coming together in Villaroche and Evendale,” he adds.

Against this background CFM also continues to break new production records for the existing CFM56 family. CFM passed the 25,000th engine milestone in May and in October delivered the 10,000th CFM56 to Boeing. “In December we will deliver the 8,500th engine to Airbus,” says Jean-Paul Ebanga, president and CEO of CFM. “In terms of yearly production in 2013 we will reach the rate of 1,500 engines per year (compared to 1,423 in 2012), and so we are on a path to get to 1,700 by 2020.” The order book for the CFM56 also continues to remain strong, despite the focus on the Leap. “When we look at the CFM56 order book we have sold more than we did last year. The reality is the airlines continue to buy the CFM56 big time,” says Ebanga, who notes CFM’s share of the A320 conventional engine market orders has now risen to 80% compared to the traditional 50-60%.

Yesterday morning CFM added to its tally as Deutsche Lufthansa selected the CFM56-5B engine to power 30 firm Airbus A320ceo (current engine option) aircraft. The agreement is valued at more than $610 million at list price. The aircraft were announced in June of this year.