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GE and Safran develop open-fan aircraft engines

GE Aviation and its CFM joint venture partner Safran Aircraft Engines have announced that they will work together to develop new aircraft engines that can reduce CO2 emissions by more than a fifth from current levels.

The CFM International joint venture is the world’s largest jet engine manufacturer and has supplied more than 30,000 engines to hundreds of operators since its founding in 1974.

The companies have extended their partnership until 2050. CFM International is launching a new program, ‘RISE’, to develop and test new technology that can improve aircraft efficiency.

The ‘RISE’ engine is being designed as a possible successor to the ‘LEAP’ model used in some Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 models. It aims to reduce fuel consumption by more than 20 percent with its new engine architecture and to be compatible with sustainable jet fuel and hydrogen.

Specifically, the companies hope to design an open-fan aircraft engine that will expose previously hidden buzzing parts to trap more air and maximize efficiency. Previous efforts to develop such engines – dating back nearly 40 years – have struggled with concerns such as noise, but Safran said a prototype tested in 2017 had produced no more noise than the LEAP. Olivier Andriès, CEO of Safran, told Reuters:

“I am confident that we will meet the strictest noise regulations […] and safety requirements.” They also teased the possibility of composite fan blades and the incorporation of heat-resistant metal alloys and additive manufacturing. It hopes it will begin testing a prototype engine before 2030, followed by flight tests.

The engine could be commercially available from the mid-1930s. Andriès added: “By extending our CFM partnership through 2050, today we reaffirm our commitment to work together as technology leaders to help our industry meet the pressing climate challenges.

” GE Aviation CEO John Slattery noted that the joint venture is “the strongest it’s ever been” and that it would “take the next generation of single-aisle aircraft to new levels of fuel efficiency and reduced emissions.”

The aviation industry contributes about two percent of global carbon emissions and faces dual pressures to recover from a severe pandemic-related slump and reduce its carbon emissions in line with widespread ambitions to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

To reduce emissions in line with this target in the Europe region, it proposes to reduce 92 percent of carbon emissions through technologies such as sustainable jet fuel, hydrogen and hybrid-electric propulsion, as well as through carbon pricing and improved air traffic management.