CFM CEO Upbeat On Signs Of Supply Chain Improvement
FARNBOROUGH—CFM International is maximizing efforts to ease supply chain problems that have slowed deliveries of Leap 1 engines to Airbus and Boeing and is starting to see “signs of improvement,” says CFM President and CEO Gael Meheust.
The issues have chiefly impacted Airbus plans to ramp-up A320neo deliveries in the near term, but more recently have also been identified by Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun as the main reason for holding back potential rate increases on the 737 MAX. CFM is the exclusive engine provider to Boeing with the Leap 1B and offers the Leap 1A in competition with Pratt & Whitney’s PW1100G geared turbofan on the A320neo.
“It’s a fact that the global supply chain is challenged,” says Meheust, who spoke to Aviation Week on the eve of Farnborough Airshow. “We hear that in every industrial company earnings report or in the media or from other OEMs, and unfortunately CFM is not immune to those challenges.” The issues range from a shortage of labor and raw materials to longer production lead times. “All of that creates challenges for CFM and for the whole industry,” he adds.
To address the problems, Meheust says the joint venture’s parent companies—GE Aviation and Safran—have deployed teams “with our suppliers to review their schedules to assist in any form we can, and to help them if there is anything we can do to make sure they have a robust plan.” The goal is to improve the accuracy of data flowing through the chain to enable better planning. “The strategy is just to be there with the suppliers everywhere and with everyone who needs support,” he continues. “We’re putting in a great deal of effort to support the supply chain.”
As each parent has responsibility for 50% of the engine, each has its own supply chain. However, Meheust says “sometimes suppliers are the same for both, so that’s where we have collaborative efforts between the two parents. When a supplier is supplying both Safran and GE, we have a lot of joint meetings between the two parents to review the situation on the supply chain and to provide each other’s support whenever it’s possible.”
With the resources of both parent companies fully deployed to address the supply chain issues, Meheust does not see how CFM can do much more than it is already. “We are so committed and so involved at all levels in each partner that I don’t think we could achieve even more,” he says. “We just have to continue what we’re doing and helping the suppliers that need help and support them and review their processes and all that.”
There are also early indications of progress, according to Meheust. “This [effort] is going to pay off and eventually everything is going to get better,” he says. “We see signs already of improvement, so we just have to continue what we’re doing right now.”
Although updated delivery figures will not be released until later in July, CFM says that in addition to 15 CFM56s, it delivered 239 Leap 1 engines in the first three months of 2022 compared to 189 Leap 1s in the first quarter of 2021.
The engine-maker, which has final assembly lines in France and the U.S., delivered 1,736 Leap 1s and 391 CFM56-5/7s in 2019, but saw numbers slashed to just 815 Leap-1s in 2020 and 952 engines in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll. Of this latter tally, 845 were Leap 1s and 107 CFM56s.
Despite the production hold ups, Meheust says the big picture remains rosy from the market and engine-performance perspectives. Highlighting the use of CFM Leap 1As to power the new A321XLR on its recent first flight, Meheust says that while the engines for the longer-range model are made from the same bill of material as the current A321neo baseline, “it will be capable of 34,000-lb. thrust, which will be made available to the airlines through a rating plug at a later date. This reinforces CFMs position on the Neo family, on which we now have about a 60% win rate, and more specifically on the XLR we are slightly above 60%,” he adds.
CFM also sees renewed activity in the single-aisle market as the industry continues to strongly rebound from the pandemic. So far this year the joint venture has taken orders for more than 550 new engines to push its Leap backlog to “well above 10,000” engines, Meheust says. He hints that several significant new orders are expected to be announced at Farnborough.
Reliability levels are also at a high level and, after six years in service, the Leap 1 metrics are “either at or better than the CFM56,” he says. The lead Leap 1 engine now has 17,000 hr. of service with no removals to date. The engine still has “a few teething issues that have been identified and are either corrected or in the process of being corrected,” Mehuest acknowledges. “But we are focusing also increasing the time on wing of the Leap in hot and harsh environments—in neutral environments we are where we want it to be, but in harsh environments we can do better. So we’re working on identifying solutions to improve the time on wing, especially in the Middle East, but those are not major issues with the ‘DNA’ of the engine.”