CFM cool on possible Leap-1C assembly in China

Singapore
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CFM International has ruled out a technology joint venture with AVIC Commercial Aircraft Engines (ACAE) and plans for a China-based assembly line for the company's Leap-1C engine have effectively been placed on hold.

"Never say never, but we steadfastly refuse to do a technology [joint venture] with ACAE," says Chaker Chahrour, executive vice president of CFM. "We have technology we want to protect."

"There is a letter of intent for final assembly of the Leap-1C, but we don't see this happening imminently," he adds.

In June 2011, CFM and ACAE signed a memorandum of understanding to study the local assembly of Leap-1C engines in China.

Chahrour's comments came at a media roundtable in Singapore. He adds that CFM is still working on the basis that the Comac C919 aircraft will have its first flight in the fourth quarter of 2014.

"Comac has not formally communicated about any change of dates," says Chahrour. "I was at Comac last week. There has been talk about it, but no formal communication with us about new dates."

Chahrour was referring to persistent rumours that the first flight of China's high profile narrowbody airliner will be pushed back from late 2014. "[Fourth quarter 2014] is the date we recognise and the date we're working toward," he said. "Until Comac communicates a different date we will not change our plan. If they communicate a different date we will relook at the plan and redeploy it to be consistent with them."

As for local Chinese assembly of the Leap-1C, Chahrour said that essentially talks are on hold, and that CFM's position is that it will only consider establishing the facility if there is a compelling business case for it. He feels the C919's orderbook of 380 aircraft is insufficient to justify a final assembly line in China.

If an assembly line for the engine is set up, CFM is determined to maintain control of it, with the protection of the company's intellectual property accorded an extremely high priority.

"We don't plan on giving a drawing to a Chinese company," says Chahrour. "It would be a CFM assembly line."