In manufacturing terms, LEAP represents the fastest industrial launch in the history of CFM and GE… perhaps in the history of commercial aviation industry. And this has triggered a powerful domino effect, starting with a spate of new contract-signings ( currently total orders are now more than 14,000), and confirmed by its early debut (the first official flight took place in August 2016). As a result, the in-flight hours notched up in a relatively short period will aggregate in a considerable number for the brand-new Boeing 737 MAX, the Airbus A320neo family and the COMAC C919 powered by the three LEAP versions. It is forecast that by 2020 over two thousand LEAP engines will be produced and delivered to airlines around the world. To date, the LEAP-1A and LEAP-1B engines have logged more than 275,000 flight hours.
The lifespan of an aircraft engine is surprisingly long, and the latest offspring of CFM (a joint venture between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines) is no exception to this rule: normally the first check-up for an aviation engine is programmed after roughly seven to nine years, then after other four years circa (depending on the flight hours collected) a second appointment with another ordinary maintenance service and an intensive revision. Not counting all the special maintenance and revision operations which an aircraft may need in the course of its long lifecycle.
Nowadays, thanks to its long experience both in designing and in manufacturing aeroengine modules and components, Avio Aero is well known for the services it offers in its Repair Stations, mostly situated in Southern Italy. The major novelty is that its plant in Brindisi – long serving as a point of reference for its servicing of military engines and of GE’s LM family aeroderivative turbines– has now been able to benefit from its highly successful experience in manufacturing the low pressure turbine casings of the LEAP engine, and also in operating the new machinery thanks to which it is boosting its ability to supply technical assistance for aviation engines.
These are the outstanding progresses achieved by the Brindisi repair station, which has been chosen by CFM as the first source of maintenance and revision services on three fundamental components of the LEAP engine in all its three versions: the LPT casing, the fan hub frame (positioned immediately behind the engine’s front fan) and the high pressure turbine casing. This will allow Avio Aero to notch up a new record. Because – while the low pressure turbine is one of the most successful products of GE Aviation’s ongoing Italian business connection, and for the fan hub frame what counts is our experience with the GEnx engine – this will be the first time ever that Avio Aero will work on repairing parts of the high pressure turbine module.
”It will be important to rapidly obtain the necessary European and American certifications for this commercial engine’s parts maintenance”, explained Giuseppe Avallone, the new Service Technology leader in Brindisi, previously leading Alitalia Maintenance System, the company which services the Italian fleet’s engines. “GE and Safran are working in parallel to write the maintenance manuals which are indispensable for starting maintenance operations on the engines. Service is a fundamental aspect for all airlines: the world’s biggest companies obviously have their own facilities and internal divisions to look after this, but we have to lead the way, especially when new generation engines are involved. Tackling these operations from the industrial side allows you greater immersion in details and technical aspects, and these are incredibly helpful in familiarizing you with every part of the engine and its behavior when in service.”
A new commitment which Avio Aero has taken on with its usual enthusiasm and indeed with a strong desire to fully support such a colossal launch as that of LEAP. “We will be the second authorized plant – obviously after the primary US GE shops – and the first in Europe for repair and maintenance. A result which will be added to that of the combustion chambers for the SaM 146, regarding the shop in Pomigliano, and which will permit us to develop in this field, in order to offer increasingly complete services to flying engines”, commented Paolo Busti, Service Sales Director of Avio Aero.
Photo credits: Rob Butler, GE Aviation @Paris Air Show 2017