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Pratt & Whitney: "We have the capacities we need for GTF maintenance"

Interview by Emilie Drab
14/11/2019 | 996 words
Pratt & Whitney:
Pratt & Whitney
Pratt & Whitney was at MRO Europe to present its maintenance solutions and its perspectives in the continent. While its partners Lufthansa and MTU are working to open a new centre for GTF engines in Poland, Paul Finklestein, the company's VP Marketing, Commercial Engines & Global Services, took a look at the engine manufacturer's support activity.

What is the role of Europe in Pratt & Whitney's MRO activities?

Pratt & Whitney has a long history in Europe, with the PW4000, the PW2000, the V2500 and now the GTF. For the GTF, our latest product, we have seven MRO sites around the world, three of which are in Europe. The first is MTU's at Hanover for the Airbus A320neo's PW1100G-JM and there are two engine shops at Lufthansa Technik, one in Hamburg for the PW1100G-JM and the other in Alzey for the A220's PW1500G. We are very well positioned in the continent. Moreover, a joint enterprise between Lufthansa and MTU, EME Aero, will be opening next year. It has been created for GTF support, but we won't be involved.

Could you imagine changing this short-term strategy and opening your own workshops in Europe?

We see as time goes by what our growth requirements are for MRO and the number of sites we'll need. For now, we have the capacities we need. But it's clear that demand will increase as the fleet grows. Major operators will then be able to respond, as Lufthansa Technik is already doing or there could be a new third-party shop in Europe. But there's nothing planned for the moment. In particular, there are no joint enterprises planned in Europe, and there are no new facilities with the Pratt & Whitney logo. This is how we've always done things until now.

What effect have the GTF problems had on the maintenance network?

What's very interesting about the GTF is that in the beginning everyone was worried about the architecture because of the gearbox. The good news is that this gearbox, which is the major specific new feature on our engine, hasn't had any problems. However, we have had problems with the seals and the combustion chamber; we've corrected all of these and now the A320neo's engine is probably in a better position than ever in terms of reliability and delivery perspectives. Availability on the wing is at its highest level and the removal rates are at their lowest. We have been highly committed to solving these problems and we've been very proactive in installing updates on the engine. This was a major challenge for MRO as we didn't at all expect to have so many engines to service over such a short period. This meant that we had to increase our rates very quickly, build new facilities and expand our human resources. This cost us a lot in the short term, but in the long term it will be a good thing for us: we have margin, major capacities, and as the engine stabilises, the maintenance workload will drop.

Airbus and Delta TechOps have just combined forces in MRO data analysis. Could Pratt & Whitney join in with EngineWise?

We need to look into this. We have our own after sales services platform, EngineWise, which we launched two years ago at MRO Americas. We designed it as a very high capacity data analysis tool, even if at that point we had started with the eFast on the A320neo's GTF. Now that we have good experience with the A320neo, we know how to get the best use out of it and reduce engine removals, we have an STC to use this unit on the A321ceo. If the customer is interested in this, we'll see how we can extend the service to other platforms. But the road is long in the digital sector.

We also have an application, PW Track. If you send an engine for servicing in the Pratt & Whitney network, you can track the process on your phone: how is the work progressing, when will the engine come back and so on. You can also do this for spare parts and track your order. These are the two main steps on the digital side.

You talked about investing to increase MRO network capacity for the GTF, especially in personnel. Are you experiencing the same recruitment difficulties as the rest of the sector?

We have just carried out the biggest recruitment drive in our history. It was difficult because engineers don't necessarily look at the aviation industry. While its easy to find highly technical engineers for aircraft engines, the ones that don't need to specialise so much, such as electrical engineers, are more drawn to other industries or to the Silicon Valley. But we have new products and new analysis systems, so we manage anyway. We are putting a lot of effort in to attract them, to give them good career prospects and enable them to train, even in a completely different field. For example, we have a rotation programme, which enables someone to work in three different groups then choose the one they want to stay in.

For technicians, we have partnerships with technological colleges which can feed into our programmes. Here again, it's not easy but we manage.

KLM has ordered Embraer E2s and Air France has committed to A220s, so the GTF will soon be joining the group's fleet. What does this mean in terms of maintenance?

First of all, we're delighted with these orders. Air France hasn't had a Pratt & Whitney engine for such a long time! As for maintenance, the group can call on shops which are already in service in Europe, as it is able to integrate the GTF into its capabilities. Discussions are still in progress on this subject, but we have time before we need to take a decision.
Emilie Drab
Assistant editor
Civil aerospace, Air transport

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