The European air carrier Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) said on Monday it will use fuel-efficient LEAP-1A jet engines from CFM International to power 35 new Airbus A320neo passenger jets. The deal, which combines engines and maintenance services, is valued at $2.9 billion at list price. “Our goal is to be industry leaders in sustainable aviation, and we are to reduce emissions by 25% by 2025, in comparison to 2005,” said Magnus Örnberg, executive vice president and CFO of SAS. “This will mainly be enabled by using state-of-the-art technologies allowing for lower fuel consumption and an increase in use of sustainable aviation fuels.”
CFM International is a 50-50 joint venture between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines. CFM started developing the LEAP jet engine two decades ago. The engineers were able to lower fuel consumption by 15%, lower CO2 emissions, and make it quieter compared with the engine’s predecessor, the CFM56, by using breakthrough materials and technologies.
For example, the company 3D-prints the metal fuel nozzle tips that spray a mixture of fuel and air into the engine’s combustor to make it run more efficiently. The interior design of the walnut-size part is very complex and difficult to make. But GE Aviation engineers found a way to print it directly from a computer file.
The engine is also using parts made from advanced light and heat resistant material called ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) that can handle temperatures approaching 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit, where even the most advanced alloys grow soft. In general, jet engines can operate more efficiently at higher temperatures. “I thought it would be the Holy Grail if we could get it inside machines, and get more power and savings out of our jet engines,” said Krishan Luthra, the GE researcher who spent several decades working on the material. “It could really make an impact.”
SAS currently operates 44 Airbus A320neo jet and one Airbus A321neo LR powered by the LEAP engine. It plans to introduce two additional A321neo LR as part of its strategy to develop international routes, including to the U.S.
The delivery of the first Airbus A321neo LR last October is also a good example of SAS’s commitment to reduce its carbon footprint. That flight used a 10 percent sustainable jet fuel blend.