Engine woes not Propulsion S.C.’s fault

A rendering of the Boeing 737 MAX.

There are issues with the engine that will power Boeing Co.’s new 737-MAX single-aisle commercial airplane, but don’t blame the folks at Propulsion South Carolina.

The LEAP-1B engine being built by CFM — a partnership of General Electric in the U.S. and Snecma in France — is missing its fuel consumption goals by as much as 5 percent in testing, according to media reports and analysts, including Leeham Co. LLC in Washington state.

That shortfall is a big problem for an airplane being marketed for its fuel efficiency.

Propulsion South Carolina, Boeing’s engine design and parts manufacturing site in North Charleston, designs and makes engine nacelles for the 737-MAX, Boeing’s next-generation model of its popular 737 brand.

Bjorn Fehrm, a Leeham analyst in France, told The Post and Courier that the nacelles “should not be any cause for the shortfall.” The problem likely stems from “hot part issues” such as the turbine, he said.

“This kind of problem is not uncommon,” he said, adding that the first-generation engine for the Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner — also built in North Charleston – “had to be redesigned in the hot turbine section for both high and low pressure turbines to get to guaranteed performance.”

Fehrm said the Dreamliner’s performance “is still 1 percent short of brochure figures, but good enough.”

Vinay Bhaskara, an analyst writing for Airways News, said Boeing is not facing an insurmountable problem because the first 737-MAX isn’t scheduled to roll off the assembly line until 2017.

“But it would be very difficult indeed,” Bhaskara wrote in Airways News, adding that “Boeing has a serious problem on its hands for upcoming sales contests” with Airbus if the problem isn’t solved.

Propulsion South Carolina also designs fan cowls for the 737-MAX and will engineer and design engine nacelles for the wide-body 777X, which begins production later this year.

Reach David Wren at 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_