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LEAP-1A on a test stand at GE’s jet engine testing center in Peebles, Ohio. Image credit: CFM International.

Late last month, CFM International, a 50–50 joint venture between GE and Snecma (Safran), announced that it had delivered the first two production LEAP 1-A engines (a shipset) to Airbus.

As regular PMNet readers will know, these highly efficient engines – in development for over ten years – feature some bleeding edge materials technology.

Each LEAP features 18 ceramic matrix composite (CMC) turbine shrouds—stationary parts in the high-pressure turbine that direct air and ensure the efficiency of the turbines.

Late last year, GE Aviation started building two factories in Huntsville, Alabama, USA, to mass-produce silicon carbide (SiC) materials for the manufacture of these CMC components, and others, at a cost of around $200 million.

One plant will produce silicon carbide (SiC) ceramic fibres, and will be the first such operation in the USA.

The second plant will apply proprietary coatings to the ceramic fibres and form them into a matrix to produce CMC tape.

The LEAP engines also feature three-dimensionally (3D) woven carbon fibre composite fan blades and a fan case. In 2013, Hexcel and Safran signed a long-term contract for the supply of the former's HexTow IM7 carbon fibre for these parts.

The LEAP-1A flew for the first time on the Airbus A320neo on 19 May 2015.

A second A320neo was added to the test programme in September 2015 and, in February 2016, the LEAP engine was the first to power the new A321neo.

To date, the three aircraft have logged a combined total of more than 285 flights and more than 800 hours of flight testing.

The next challenge facing the LEAP programme will be entry into service.

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