HAI Convention News

P&WC’s plan is to match engine supply with demand

 - February 23, 2009, 11:19 AM

Engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney Canada (Booth No. 624) remains committed to developing new engine products whatever the impact of the global downturn on a changing industry, according to president John Saabas. He told HAI Convention News that last year had been “a peak year” for the Canadian manufacturer.

Saabas said P&WC is keeping one eye just beyond the horizon even while working hard to meet (but not exceed) demand for new engines as well as to support almost 45,000 units in service. “One day the market will all come back and faster than we can manage it,” he said.

A major challenge is to balance supply to requirements. “We have to watch the output of customers [manufacturers] so as not to produce engines faster than they can be consumed,” he said. P&WC is bound to suffer from the recession because “we had been tooling up for more growth and now the trend is flat.” For the moment, balancing output with industry demand means laying off workers, particularly on business aircraft engines. Earlier this month P&WC revealed plans to lay off 1,000 workers–10 percent of its worldwide total–in coming months. 

Simultaneously, it continues to invest in the future. “We will develop the next generation of technologies to be leveraged across all our engines,” Saabas told HAI Convention News. “Customers need outstanding performance and reliability, combined with best power-to-weight ratio, fuel burn and overall operating economics. Plus, they want engines that are greener than ever. This is where we are investing and we will continue to monitor the market closely.”

Saabas said P&WC has seen “a lot of operators cutting back their flying and wanting to conserve expenditures.” Accordingly, its product-support business is “suffering a little from loss of flight time in the softening market.” He added that with its leading market position, support for customers remains “a priority.”

Acknowledging that the market for business jet engines had been the hardest hit sector of its activity, Saabas expects this year to see “a similar level” of activity to that of this year. “The bottom line is that new aircraft models are coming in, so the overall numbers are not really impacted.” He draws consolation from the fact that demand for turboshaft units is “steady, or only slightly down.”

The company said the global economic landscape has “changed dramatically in the past six months” and continues to change. “P&WC is actively monitoring this situation and will continue to seize every opportunity to offset these headwinds to keep our company strong.”

Meanwhile, the company is expecting “to maintain our competitiveness with the introduction of several new products and through a diverse product and customer portfolio, and by pursuing our efforts to optimize our operations and reduce our costs.”

P&WC’s latest powerplant, the new 1,000 shp-class PW210S turboshaft, flew for the first time on a Sikorsky S-76D earlier this month and is being offered to other manufacturers for new-build and retrofit use. Seven PW210Ss have been allocated to the engine development program. Ground certification tests are scheduled for completion by the end of next month.

A continuing challenge is finding a second application for the new powerplant. P&WC is working with “a number of” airframe manufacturers and expects to be able to identify an additional PW210S platform “very shortly“–a time frame Saabas subsequently characterized as meaning “within a year...”

Internationally, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed last May covers the Canadian company’s work with Russian Helicopters to develop the new PW127TS-powered Mi-38 medium-twin helicopter, which has logged some 100 hours of flight time. Although both sides are said to be firmly committed to the project, P&WC is unable to offer a schedule for the agreement to move from an MoU to a formal binding contract.

 The manufacturer has some 50 design engineers working at its St. Petersburg affiliate, Pratt & Whitney Rus (P&W Rus), on the Mi-38 and other projects, with a further 20 employees dedicated to customer support for its other engines flying in the region, such as the ubiquitous PT6 turboshaft/turboprop and the PW100 regional turboprop. P&W Rus also is overseeing the production in Russia of modules to convert and adapt the PW127 as a turboshaft engine.