We’re here near Paris, France at Safran Aircraft Engines (previously called Snecma) and this is the CFM56 assembly line, the world’s best-selling engine. The 30 000th one was produced here a few days ago.
The engine was designed by CFM International, a joint company with the French engine maker, Safran Aircraft Engines and the American General Electric. The American side brought its know-how on the hot parts of the engine – the combustion chamber and the high-pressure turbines. The European side brought its expertise on the low-pressure turbines and the fan section.
Yet in the 70’s, when it started up, it was no easy task because the market was already very competitive. Stéphane Maugras, the CFM56 programme manager at Safran Aircraft Engines, explains that CFM was created in 1974 and had to wait five years before getting any orders. These eventually came from American companies needing to replace their engines on the DC-8. After that, however, there was no looking back.
Today, the CFM56 can be found on best-sellers like the Boeing 737 and on more than half of Airbus’ A320s. Another less well-known plane equipped with this engine is the US Airforce KC-135 tanker. The main reason for this success was its innovation and high performance at the time as well as its continuous improvement since.
It was a quieter engine than the older ones with lower fuel consumption. This enabled the DC-8s to be used on longer routes. Since then, the CFM56 has continually been improved upon. It is also very dependable, very rarely breaks down and only requires maintenance every 5, 6 or 7 years.
The catalogue price is $10 million and history buffs will be happy to know that « CF » stands for one of GE’s civil engine ranges and « M56 » is because it was Snecma’s 56th project.