Thinking about LEAP-X and TECH-X

Over the last week there was growing speculation about when the LEAP-X engine, one of the candidates for the A320NEO, would be ready for the planned EIS in late 2015. I briefly discussed that matter in my last post, referring to an article in the AviationWeek. Meanwhile, also Ernest Arvai from AirInsight posted a story, speculating what might be behind the A320NEO decision holdup.
So let us go back in history – well, it’s just two or three years anyway…:

In 2008 at the Farnborough Airshow, when CFM for the first time talked about the LEAP-X in public, a certification in 2016 was announced as possible.
This announcement meant a turning point for CFM, as with the LEAP-X CFM changed their engine architecture strategy from a core with a single stage HPT to a 2 stage HPT. Simultaneously, the HPC got an additional 2 stages, driving up the pressure ratio from 16 to about 22 and thus becoming (more or less) a scaled down GEnx HPC. Thus, by changing the core architecture, the LEAP56 became the LEAP-X.
The reason for this radical change was rising fuel prices, changing the balance between fuel costs and maintenance costs in the equation for determining the operating costs of an aircraft. Fuel became the No.1 in operating costs for many airlines, particularly in the U.S., by then exceeding labor costs.
But obviously the preparations for LEAP56 and tests for the single stage HPT core were too advanced to stop the whole effort. This core was now called the eCore1 and was tested in two campaigns starting in 2009. The eCore2 will be tested in mid 2011, a second build is foreseen for mid 2012. The first engine to test should spin in early 2013 with certification expected by CFM sometimes in 2014.
In 2008, the LEAP-X handout (thanks, Scott!) at Farnborough showed a similar timeline with the eCore2 testing at the end of 2011 and a “Full Engine Demo” in 2012.
So the core tests moved a little bit to the right, the FETT moved a year out, but certification is aimed two years earlier.
An here the speculation begins:
  • CFM has dramatically accelerated their pace of technology development
  • CFM ousted some technologies to be ready for a 2014 certification, sacrificing SFC and maybe adding these technologies in a second step
Then there is the TECH-X. Building on the same technologies, the same core, scaled down from the LEAP-X, this engine was chosen by Bombardier to power their new Global Family members (Global 7000 and Global 8000). The Global 7000 will hit the market in 2016. What does that mean for the engine? Take a look at the rival, the Gulfstream 650. First flight happened in November 2009, certification is planned for 2011, first deliveries to customers are slated for 2012. Flight tests thus take about 2 years. Even if we assume that Bombardier will hand over the first aircraft right after certification we can assume that the flight test will take about two years, so the TECH-X engine has to be certified in late 2014 to meet the (late) 2016 delivery target.
The GE press release sets the official timetable like this:
  • eCore Demonstrator 2 in 2011
  • first engine run in 2013
That would allow a certification in 2014 – so far, so good.
But then I stumbled across this article from Flightglobal’s John Croft, stating that building up the first engine would be in 2013 with the engine running in 2014. That would allow for a certification only in 2015. I am puzzled…

Now – the whole thing would not really be that important as there is no competing engine on the Global 7000/8000. But if one transfers that story over to the A320NEO, this could be the key to many answers surrounding the questions why the widely anticipated launch of the –NEO did not happen so far.
CFM did not react so far about the growing speculations that a late 2015 EIS LEAP-X for the A320NEO might be not the LEAP-X with the fuel burn vs. the current CFM56 (-15%) as advertised. The aero-geek-public is keen to know (at least I am), so let's wait for a clarification on this matter coming from Cincinnati or Villaroche.