As the CFM56 passes the baton to the next-generation LEAP engine, it is only fitting to take a look back at such a prolific turbine. Passing a major milestone in October 2016, CFM announced that it had delivered its 30,000th CFM56 engine. Although the engine remains in production for the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 family of aircraft, output is forecast to decline to a relatively low number beginning in 2020.
The CFM56’s development began in the early 1970s after a tumultuous lead-in. As aspects of the engine were derived from the F101 engine of B-1 bomber fame, development required governmental approval. After some political jockeying, approval was achieved in 1973 and CFM International was born.
CFM International is a joint venture between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines (formerly Snecma), each of which has a 50 percent stake in the subsidiary. As with many joint ventures, the parent companies shared development of different aspects of the new powerplant. The engine is manufactured on two production lines, GE’s, located in Evendale, Ohio, and Safran Aircraft Engines located in Villaroche, France.
The CFM56 has provided power for a few different, yet popular, aircraft which span both sides of the Atlantic and are currently in production. The CFM56 is the sole powerplant offered for the Boeing 737 Classic and Next Generation models. In addition, CFM56s are an option for the Airbus A320 family of aircraft. Both platforms are in extensive service among carriers around the world. Various military aircraft employ the engine as well and oddly enough will keep production running, albeit at a much slower pace than previously.
Production of the CFM56 is slated to decline in the long term as the new re-engined 737 MAX and A320neo aircraft come on line. Production in 2016-2017 is forecast to be similar to previous production years – i.e., in the range of 1,500 units per year. From 2018 on, however, production will decrease rapidly as orders are filled and manufacturing shifts to the new LEAP series of engines. Production will not completely cease, as the P-8 Poseidon, which employs two CFM56s, is projected to be in series production for the next 10 years. The P-8 will keep production going; however, the specialized nature of the aircraft means that production will reach nowhere near A320 and 737 figures.
Thirty thousand engines is an impressive number and a testament to the success CFM has had with its product. The LEAP, itself related to the CFM56, is forecast to have even greater production numbers starting in 2019. If A320neo and 737 MAX orders are as strong as those for their older brethren, success for CFM is assured.
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