LEAP-1C Heralds Shift in Nacelle Design and Support
The CFM LEAP-1C engine for China’s 150-seat C919 aircraft has received dual certification from the FAA and EASA.
COMAC rolled out the first C919 a year ago, but it took until last month for its LEAP engines to be switched on, and then only at idle ground power.
Production of the LEAP-1C will only be a fraction of the -1B and -1A - which power the 737 MAX and A320neo, respectively - since the C919 is unlikely to sell well outside China.
Nonetheless, the project may still prove valuable to GE and Safran - CFM’s joint venture partners - as a ticket into future rounds of Chinese aerospace production and development.
The engine also breaks new ground with its integrated design.
Known as the “integrated propulsion system” (IPS), the CFM LEAP-1C features an engine, nacelle, thrust reverser, and pylon that were designed in conjunction to improve aerodynamics and weight.
The integrated system is also intended to offer “easier maintenance”, despite including more complex components.
If one considers the nacelle alone, only time will tell whether that proves to be the case. In recent years nacelle design has focused heavily on performance, leaving some to wonder whether lifecycle costs are also being addressed. It´s possible that maintenance intervals will increase, but the work at each shop visit will become trickier.
Another issue will concern the repairability of the new nacelle components, and whether airlines will be pushed towards replacing parts over fixing them.
In addition to the IPS, the LEAP-1C engine features 3-D woven carbon fiber composite fan blades and fan case; 3D-printed fuel nozzles; ceramics matrix composite shrouds in the high-pressure turbine; and titanium aluminide blades in the low-pressure turbine.