CFM Operators Maintain Workscopes Through Crisis

LEAP engine flight cycles stood at around 70% last year, having approached 2019 levels earlier in the year.

CFM partner Safran expects its engine shop visits to rise roughly 15% in 2021, chief executive Olivier Andries said on a recent earnings call.

Andries also noted that displacement of shop visits in 2020 by airlines using green-time engine instead was less than expected.
“The impact of green time was not so heavy,” he said, adding: “And the impact of green time will be roughly the same, we believe, in 2021.”

Another surprise from last year was that when engines did come in for servicing, customers elected to keep the same level of workscope as in pre-crisis years, rather than opting for cheaper, lighter checks.
The result was stable revenue per shop visit, a trend that Safran expects to continue this year.

Of course, total shop visits were well down, driving 43% reduction in civil aftermarket sales for 2020 as compared with the previous years.
In February 2021 CFM56 flight cycles were at around 40% of 2019 levels, Safran said, while LEAP engines were at around 70%, having approached 2019 levels earlier in the year.

The higher LEAP utilization rate is explained by the fact that airlines will return their newest aircraft to service first, but, even so, Safran, noted that 80% of CFM56-5B/7B-equipped aircraft were back in service in December 2020.

It also highlighted the surprising fact that only 60 aircraft with CFM56-5B/7B engines – those used on A320-family and 737NG variants – were retired in 2020, roughly half the number of the year before. This may reflect airline confidence that their short- to medium-haul traffic will return. 

Forecasts about the widebody market are much hazier due chiefly to uncertainty about the return of business passengers and to a lesser extent, the effect of any mandatory mask-wearing.
However, if business traffic does not return in full and airlines raise widebody economy fares to compensate, a chunk of long-haul leisure demand may transfer to the short-haul market.

And if holidaymakers do start opting for multiple short breaks over more extended, distant trips, growth for the narrowbody market could exceed pre-crisis rates.

Alex Derber

Alex Derber is a UK-based aviation journalist and editor of the Engine Yearbook. He contributes regular features, news and opinion pieces about the…