Jet engine builder CFM International and Boeing Commercial Airplanes are expressing confidence and satisfaction with the start of flight testing for the LEAP-1B engine, the high-bypass turbofan engine developed by CFM and chosen by Boeing as the exclusive power plant for new 737 MAX aircraft.
CFM International said LEAP-1B flight testing started on April 29 on a modified 747 flying testbed at GE Aviation Flight Test Operations in Victorville, Calif. It said the engine “behaved well and completed multiple aeromechanical test points at various altitudes” over a flight that lasted five-and-a-half hours.
In the coming weeks, the flight test program will undertake comprehensive tests of the engines’ operability, stall margin, performance, emissions, and acoustics. It also will further validate advanced technologies incorporated in the engine, including the woven carbon-fiber composite fan, the Twin-Annular, Pre-Mixing Swirler (TAPS) combustor, ceramic-matrix composite shrouds in the high-pressure turbine, and titanium-aluminide blades in the low-pressure turbine.
"I continue to be really impressed with the LEAP family," stated chief test pilot Steven Crane. "These engines are demonstrating a maturity that you don't always see in new products."
CFM International is a joint venture of GE Aviation and Snecma, the French aerospace engineering group. Each partner will build the engines at its own plants; GE Aviation will build the engines at plants in Durham, N.C., and Lafayette, Ind.
CFM has called the LEAP-1B testing program “the most extensive ground and flight test certification program” in its history. Full certification for the engine is expected next year, in advance of the debut for Boeing’s new version of the 737, its single-aisle jet that is the best aircraft in the history of commercial aviation.
Southwest Airlines will be the launch customer for the 737 MAX in 2017. The budget air carrier has ordered 150 of the new jets, with options for 150 more.