UPDATE 2-CFM starts flight tests of landmark LEAP jet engine
(Recasts, adds confirmation of flight test, adds background)
By Tim Hepher
PARIS Oct 9 (Reuters) - Transatlantic aero engine joint venture CFM International said on Thursday it had begun flight trials of its next-generation LEAP engine, stepping up a race for billions of dollars of jet engine sales in the coming years.
The company, co-owned by General Electric and France's Safran, said in a statement it was on track to win safety approval for the first two versions of the engine in 2015.
Confirming an earlier Reuters report, CFM said it began testing the first engine on a modified Boeing 747 on October 6.
"The engine behaved well" during the three-hour flight over California, CFM International said in a statement.
The LEAP engine is one of two powerplants whose development has galvanised the aerospace industry in recent years as their much-improved fuel efficiency triggered a huge jump in plane sales and pushed anticipated production rates to record levels.
Both CFM and rival Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of United Technologies, say their engines will produce double-digit percentage fuel savings for cash-pinched airlines.
The engine developments are at the centre of a struggle between engine makers that easily matches the more visible order race between plane giants Airbus and Boeing. Continued...