Southwest Airlines today formally launched CFM International’s advanced LEAP-1B engine on the Boeing 737 MAX with a firm order for 150 airplanes. In addition, the airline expanded its current order book with an order for 58 additional CFM56-7BE-powered Next-Generation 737-800s. The total engine order is valued at approximately $4.7 billion U.S. at list price.
Both the LEAP-1B and CFM56-7BE engines are products of CFM International (CFM), a 50/50 joint company between Snecma (Safran group) and GE. The new airplanes will begin delivery in 2017.
“Boeing and CFM have created an aircraft and engine platform that is uniquely optimized and the LEAP-1B is the focal point of that effort,” said Mike Van de Ven,” executive vice president and Chief Operating Officer of Southwest Airlines. “We have a 30-year history of exceptional reliability, fuel efficiency, and ongoing innovation with CFM engines. I have tremendous confidence in the LEAP-1B to bring those same results to our future fleet.”
In 1981, Southwest Airlines played a pivotal role in CFM’s history by launching the CFM56-3 engine as the sole powerplant for what is now called the Boeing 737 Classic. In 1993, the airline launched the CFM56-7B as the sole powerplant on the Boeing Next-Generation 737. Today, the airline is CFM’s largest commercial customer, operating a fleet of more than 700 CFM56-powered 737s.
“We are obviously thrilled that Southwest Airlines is launching the LEAP-1B,” said Jean-Paul Ebanga, president and CEO of CFM. “We appreciate the confidence this order shows in our products and in our team’s ability to deliver the industry’s most advanced technology.”
“This order from Southwest launches a terrific new chapter in our relationship,” said Kevin McAllister, vice president of Global Sales for CFM parent company GE Aviation. “Much of the success that CFM has enjoyed over the past three decades is directly attributable to our relationship with this airline. Their involvement in the development of the CFM56-7B engine helped us produce a high quality, highly reliable, cost-efficient product; their input into the final configuration of the LEAP-1B will be invaluable. Our commitment to Southwest for the next 30 years is that every member of the CFM team will prove, every day, that they made the right decision.”
LEAP engines incorporate revolutionary technologies never before seen in the single-aisle aircraft segment. The new engine combines advanced aerodynamic
design techniques, lighter, more durable materials, and leading-edge environmental technologies, making it a major breakthrough in engine technology.
As a result, operators of the 737 MAX will achieve 10 – 12 percent lower fuel burn compared to today’s best CFM56-powered 737; an equivalent reduction in carbon emissions; a 50 percent reduction in NOx emissions versus current ICAO CAEP/6 requirements; a 75 percent reduction in the aircraft noise footprint; all while maintaining the benefits of CFM’s legendary reliability and low maintenance costs.
Boeing launched the 737 MAX program with the LEAP-1B in August 2011 and, in November, the two companies announced that the LEAP-1B will have a 68-inch fan. During 2012, the engine design will be optimized for the new 737. CFM and Boeing had been working together for several years to evaluate engine configurations for both re-engined, as well as potential new aircraft to replace the Next-Generation 737 family. To date, Boeing has received commitments for more than 900 LEAP-1B-powered 737 MAX airplanes from 13 customers worldwide.
Since its introduction into commercial service in 1998 with Southwest Airlines, the CFM56-7B-powed Boeing 737 has become the best-selling engine/airplane in aviation history. Total orders stand at more than 6,600 aircraft, of which more than 3,800 have been delivered to about 190 operators.
All of the engines powering Southwest’s Next-Generation 737-800s will be the CFM56-7BE configuration. The enhanced airplane/engine combination provides a 2 percent improvement in fuel consumption, which, in turn, equates to a 2 percent reduction in carbon emissions. Additionally, the enhanced -7BE will provide up to 4 percent lower maintenance costs, depending on the thrust rating. The engine entered service in July 2011 and more than 130 aircraft have been delivered to operators around the globe. The fleet has logged more than 125,000 engine flight hours without a single engine-related issue.