CFM International (Chalet 121) will keep its maintenance costs for the new LEAP narrowbody engine to levels at or similar to those of the current CFM56 engine, company senior executives said Sunday on the eve of the Paris Air Show.

Briefing press at the air show, CFM executive VP Alan Paxon said LEAP lifetime costs would be “the same or similar” to those of the CFM56, which powers Airbus A320s and Boeing 737s. He said maintenance cycles would also be “very similar.”

The LEAP is scheduled to begin deliveries in 2016. It is the sole-source engine for the new Boeing 737 MAX and COMAC C919, and competes with the Pratt & Whitney’s (Chalet 338, Static C2) new geared turbofan engine on the Airbus A320neo.

The LEAP has so far gained almost 9,000 orders and conducted its first flight on a neo May 19. As of June it has logged 23 flights and 75 hr. on the neo. Overall, 28 of a planned 60 test program LEAP engines are running and have conducted 4,150 hr. and 6,325 cycles. Major testing completed toward FAA and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification includes icing, crosswind, blade-out and bird strike tests, Paxon said. “The engine will deliver what we expected it to do; it is right on target and right where we expected it to be this year,” he said.

CFM, a joint-venture company between GE (Chalet 142) and Snecma, is keeping what it calls an “open MRO network” for the LEAP. That means airlines can choose whether to buy a power-by-the-hour maintenance agreement from CFM or go to a third-party maintenance supplier. Some engine suppliers – such as Rolls-Royce with its Trent engine – insist that airlines contract with them for maintenance as part of the sale.

Last week at the IATA AGM, IAG CEO Willie Walsh heavily criticized engine manufacturers for what he said are unacceptably high maintenance costs.

Talking to ShowNews at the end of the CFM press conference in Paris, CFM president Jean-Paul Ebanga said different engine manufacturers were going to the market with different maintenance solutions.

“We are already engaged in helping airlines reduce their maintenance costs. Willie Walsh said he wanted more competition, but we have an open network, so that brings competition. It has been our responsibility to drive maintenance costs down and CFM is where it is now because we build the most reliable engine in the industry.

“So Willie Walsh was talking about the OEMs in general, not CFM. Our customers, the airlines, want to see their maintenance costs reduced; we understand that and will continue to do that. I think we have the right solution,” Ebanga said.

Ebanga also said that “a strong more than half” of airlines that have ordered the LEAP have also bought CFM’s power-by-the-hour maintenance program. Because of the open network, CFM does not sell the two together. It sells the engine, and then separately offers an MRO deal.

“It’s about freedom and letting the customer choose,” Ebanga said.

He also pointed out that because the LEAP is not expected to require its first shop visit until some seven or eight years after entry into service, major MRO capacity will not be needed much before 2025. So CFM is investing first in capabilities to support the engine’s entry into service and will decide later on the best full MRO locations and facilities for the LEAP.