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Jet engine maker CFM vows to meet output goals

[PARIS] French-US jet engine maker CFM International pledged to meet ambitious production goals for its newest model, designed to power the industry's best-selling passenger jets, and said testing was going smoothly.

A successful increase in production of the LEAP engine, developed by a joint venture between France's Safran and US giant General Electric, is crucial to the smooth introduction of revamped Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s. "We are really serious about delivering on promises,"Jean-Paul Ebanga, president of the four-decade-old venture said. "We want to do what we said and even if sometimes it is not where the buzz is, what we have done over all these years proved to be very consistent." He was speaking ahead of the June 15-21 Paris Airshow, where the industry's focus is expected to turn towards the production challenges created by a boom in commercial jet orders.

CFM already produces the industry's most-sold jet engine, the CFM56, which powers all Boeing 737s and about half of Airbus's A320 series.

That engine's successor, the LEAP, will power two aircraft under development: the Boeing 737 MAX, for which CFM remains the sole supplier, and the Airbus A320neo, where CFM will continue to compete with Pratt & Whitney.

A new Chinese passenger jet, the Comac C919, will also use the LEAP engine.

CFM plans to increase production from 1,560 engines in 2014 to 1,670 engines this year. It expects a gradual transition to the LEAP engine, which will dominate production by 2020.

The company could increase its projected production of traditional CFM56 engines but its plate is full for the time being with planned LEAP production, company officials said.

That echoed cautious comments by the head of Safran who said this week it was too early to consider further production increases being tenatively explored by some planemakers.

CFM said it expects a fall in orders this year following a record 2014. "We are still confident it will be a good year," Mr Ebanga said.

It sold 4,244 engines in 2014, including 1,527 of the CFM56 engine and 2,717 new LEAP engines, which is designed to save fuel partly through the use of lightweight materials. The company plans to announce new orders at the June 15-21 air show.

So far this year it has sold 314 CFM56 engines and "about 500" of its LEAP engines, Mr Ebanga said.

The LEAP and Pratt & Whitney's competing Geared Turbofan both aim to deliver about 15 percent in fuel savings.

CFM officials dismissed recent speculation of a shortfall in performance during testing of the LEAP. "We did have a few bumps in the road but none of them has caused us to change the design of the engine," Executive Vice President Allen Paxson said. "It is right where we expect it to be today."