John Saabas, President, Pratt & Whitney Canada
AirInsight: Thanks for being with us today, John.
The venerable PT6, the turboprop industry leader since its introduction in 1963, has new competition. How is Pratt & Whitney responding to the new competition, and how much life is left in the PT6? Will an all-new “PT-X” be needed to leap-frog your competitor?
John: We pride ourselves on being a learning organization and being able to go and develop new ideas and innovations and apply them to everything that we do. Our customers trust that we will deliver on our promise of providing proven technology and keeping a laser focus on product performance so they can fly reliably.
Today’s PT6A is more than just one product in one segment – we are the only engine OEM extending across multiple platforms and segments: Corporate, utility, skydiving, agriculture application and rescue missions to name a few. The flexibility of the engine’s architecture enables innovative passenger and utility transport solutions, as demonstrated by the fact it continues to be selected for new platforms, including the new SkyCourier utility aircraft from Textron.
We continue to invest in the PT6A every year so operators have engine solutions that meet their evolving needs. As a result, we’ve helped create new segments and business opportunities, for example, single-engine IFR, which EASA has recently approved for passenger commercial activity in Europe. Our teams worked closely with the European authority steering committee to enable this leap forward, an achievement in great part due to the dependability and reliability of the PT6A engine.
The PT6A-140 engine, our first variant using a next-generation core entered service a few years ago and has already positioned itself as the number one engine in the small engine category. It’s the most powerful and reliable engine in its class and delivers 15% more power at 5% lower specific fuel consumption when compared to our previous engines. For us, it’s always been about investing in technology in the areas where it provides the most value to our OEMs and operators.
At P&WC, we don’t stand still – more than 120 enhancements to the PT6A have been made over the last few years. We’ve increased engine availability through Electrical Discharge Damage protection and environmental sustainability has been enhanced through our Prist®-free fuel system and biodiesel capability. We have also improved engine durability even further with the introduction of Single Crystal blades.
Innovation is a key theme at P&WC, in addition to focusing on technology advancements, it’s also about transforming how we approach business, leverage data and develop new services and solutions that can bring greater value to our customers.
AirInsight: While today’s PT6 layout resembles the initial models delivered 50 plus years ago, much of the technology behind the engine has changed. What are the major improvements and enhancement that customers can expect as the PT6 evolves, and will some of those enhancements be retrofitted to existing engines?
John: We’re driving the industry forward by giving operators the peace of mind that comes with knowing what’s going on inside their engine with our FAST™ and Oil Analysis Technology. By creating a highly predictive environment for our customers, they can reduce costs, avoid delays and cancellations and move to on-condition maintenance environments.
By providing actionable intelligence and a host of online services, such as access to engineering services, spare parts purchasing, online maintenance manuals and more, our MyP&WC Power customer portal has established itself as a one-stop shop for aftermarket services.
Delivering advanced engine and service technologies requires transforming our culture as well. Taking a cue from the technology industry, we’ve incorporated an agile approach to our service organization: creating business transformation teams who are given the latitude to incubate, launch and adapt targeted solutions to address the real-world business challenges our 13,000 customers face. As a direct result, PT6A customers benefit more than ever from flexible and tailored solutions focused on driving greater availability and lowering maintenance costs. Programs such as; ESP™ECIALLY For Your PT6, P&WCSMART Flat Rate Overhaul and Engine Exchanges, and Certified Pre-Owned Engine for used aircraft, are some of the many ways we drive greater value to our customers.
We’re also working on next-generation engine technologies tailored to GA & Turboshaft operators’ business needs, bringing more power and improved fuel consumption while maintaining the same durability and dependability our customers expect. We continue to advance our technology demonstration programs and are sharing the results with our customers.
We helped pioneer the FADEC technology (full authority digital engine control) which we’ve been installing on select PT6 engines for a number of years. Select PT6 engines on military trainers include single-channel electronic controls, and turboshaft (PT6C-67E/Airbus H175) already include a dual channel FADEC control. Today, we’re in the demonstration phase of an engine and propeller electronic control for the turboprop market, a fully integrated solution providing a revolutionary pilot experience and true single-lever operation.
AirInsight: There is a strong retrofit market for replacing older PT6 engines with new models to enhance aircraft performance. Would P&WC consider entry into this segment of the services market, or are you satisfied to leave this segment of the market to third-party modification providers like Blackhawk?
John: We value a collaborative partnership and work alongside our customers to design innovative and comprehensive flight solutions that deliver the right experience for each customer. The current relationships we have with the STC holders work well and remain our first choice for this segment.
AirInsight: The move of the Q400 program from Bombardier to Viking must be of interest to P&WC. Viking is well known for improving the aircraft models they acquire. Is there room for the Q400 to be re-engined with the PW150C?
John: We have extensive experience working with Viking on the CL-215 and CL-415 programs (PW123AF) and the DHC-6 Twin Otter 400 (PT6A-34) and we look forward to working with them on the Q400 series (PW150A). Unless Viking opts for a significant change to the airframe, the PW150A engine will continue to be the optimal powerplant for the Q400.
AirInsight: The selection of the PW800 for the Gulfstream 500 and 600 marks the first Gulfstream aircraft to not utilize Rolls-Royce engines, and was a major competitive conquest for Pratt & Whitney Canada. What are the attributes of the PW800 that caused Gulfstream to select this engine over the competitive Pearl offering from Rolls-Royce?
John: The selection of the PW800 engine by Gulfstream powering the all-new G500 & G600 was an extensive, detailed process that clearly demonstrated that our PW800 engines were the best solution for the G500 and G600 aircraft. A critical part of this selection was our demonstrated commitment to our in-service support and our ability to innovate ensuring the end customer gets the most from their airplane.
We are very proud the PW800 engine has entered in service. In preparation for Entry-Into-Service, we have made significant preparations and investments to ensure that our people, global network and systems would be fully ready to provide Gulfstream with the rapid, reliable and customized service they were expecting. This includes globally positioned assets, a dedicated network of on-the-ground customer managers, a new Pure Power Customer Centre supporting the frontline with expert knowledge, and 150 fully-trained frontline representatives. In addition, our proactive Digital Engine Services platform is driving even greater levels of customized service, and the ESP® PurePower® plan, which offers all-inclusive coverage is focused on preventive maintenance to maximize aircraft availability and investment protection. It is reflective of the comprehensive service package we have developed for our PW800 operators.
The PW800 entry-into-service marks a milestone for us, sets a new market benchmark and validates that the PW800 was the right choice for the G500.
AirInsight: The core of the PW800 is essentially the same design as the core for the commercial GTF engine produced by P&W in the United States. To what degree is technology R&D integrated among the P&W, UTAS, and other members of the UTC family, and how is that impacting the design of future engines at P&W Canada?
John: P&W are leaders in the development of gas turbine propulsion solutions. As we develop new solutions, we always leverage the best technologies and expertise that are available at P&W and UTC. Wherever there are designs that are appropriate and available to be leveraged in the small engine portfolio, we will do so.
The design and manufacture of the PW800 engine is actually a great example of how, with our colleagues from P&W, UTAS, and other UTC companies, we leveraged our engineering knowledge, sharing best practices and taking the lessons learned from other programs to develop the world’s most innovative business aviation engine. The design and advanced manufacturing attributes of the common core enables it to meet the requirements of both the commercial and business aviation markets.
We also share best practices and collaborate on developing future technologies in order to continually upgrade the performance and reliability of our engines. It’s this collective development that lets us continually deliver and service the world’s most advanced aircraft engines.
AirInsight: Service and support are key issues, driven by big data. What new products and initiatives have you undertaken to leverage big data, and what has been our initial experience with customers?
John: We know that our customers want to be able to better predict their maintenance intervals and costs with the end objective of having greater availability. We are offering them the value that they are looking for by combining services to help them better run their business.
For example, we have combined our FAST™ (Flight data Acquisition Storage and Transmission) engine prognostic and diagnostic solution with our new Oil Analysis Technology. While FAST™ provides insight into engine health, usage and trends, the Oil Analysis Technology looks at the health of specific oil-wetted components with extremely high precision. Together, these two technologies allow for highly predictive environments where customers can reduce costs, avoid delays and cancellations, and move to on-condition maintenance environments.
Customer reaction to these services has been very strong. We are conducting engine health management for 18,000 engines in the field and have 7,000 engines enrolled in our Oil Analysis Program. The technology has reached maturity on several PT6A engine models including the PT6A-62, the PT6A-67B, and the PT6A-67P.
AirInsight: If we look ahead ten years and the continuing improvements in engine technology, what changes and trends should we expect to see before 2029?
John: We’ve got a fleet of over 63,000 engines and more than 13,000 customers in countless different market segments, each flying uniquely challenging missions. All these flights matter, whether they’re powering humanitarian missions, emergency medical services or search and rescue missions, reuniting families or driving commerce. We are proud that each of the 103,000+ engines we have delivered has helped operators around the world successfully carry out vital missions and make a tangible difference to people and communities.
Our engine fleet – which spans the full spectrum of the aviation market – has flown more than 845+ million hours. That’s a lot of time in the air but mostly, that is a lot of insight and a real competitive advantage, which benefits our OEMs and our operators.
From this deep industry knowledge, I see several trends in the marketplace that will impact our activity over the coming decade. Our focus will be the environment, fuel consumption and hybrid technologies, tailored maintenance plans as well as services which cater to non-traditional ownership models.
As you know, we invest over CAD$500 million every year in Research and Development (R&D), making us one of the top R&D investors in Canada. And when you look at it on a Pratt & Whitney level, that number more than doubles. I believe that these investments, together with our strong focus on innovation and operational excellence will enable our company to deliver on these trends and stay ahead of the curve.
First, the environment. It goes without saying that the engines of tomorrow will have a lower impact on the environment, even by today’s standards. We have made progress in the past 20 years on reducing emissions and noise levels. I am very confident that by 2029, our engines will have a significantly less environmental impact and that we will have a zero-carbon footprint in our commercial operations. It is our goal to be the best aerospace company FOR the world and we have set ambitious environmental and sustainability targets.
The second trend that I see is the focus on reducing the fuel consumption of the engines we design and manufacture. Obviously, everyone is talking about hybrid electric engines, a technology with a lot of potential for aerospace. This is a very interesting field and one we are excited to explore. Using the resources of UTC, including the Research Center and Digital Accelerator, we are working to break through the known boundaries of today. For large commercial aircraft, we believe the Pratt & Whitney GTF™ engine is and will continue to be, the most sustainable and efficient power plant for the foreseeable future.
As consumers, we have seen a proliferation of personalized services for things we use every day. In our business, we are adopting the same approach by tailoring our services and maintenance plans to the different needs of our diverse customer base.
For example, we know that aircraft availability is critical for business aviation customers. Time is money and for these operators losing a day of flight is not an option. They rely on us to keep their engines in the air and their businesses running. We developed a solution for PW300 operators using data from the engine and aircraft. Nearly 3,000 PW300 engines are enrolled in our Proactive Help Desk where this data helps aviation technicians and analysts address customers’ needs proactively. On this engine family, the proactive help desk has helped reduce unplanned maintenance events from 85% in 2015 to 20% in 2017 for specific availability drivers. The dispatch rate for Falcon 7X (PW307) customers has increased from 99.94% to 99.98%.
Ownership models have changed a lot in the last 20 years and will continue to do so. We’ve seen a rise in fractional ownership, leasing, and pre-owned aircraft transactions. We have put a lot of thought and effort into how we can be the solution for these non-traditional ownership models. The result is that we work closely with these operators to develop the right services for their business models and ensure they can focus on what is important to them: their missions.
AirInsight: Thanks for your insightful answers, John.