AIN Product Support Survey 2010

 - September 29, 2010, 7:12 AM

Among turbofan manufacturers, Williams In­ternational remains tops with AIN readers for the support it provides to operators. Rolls-Royce, combined into one listing this year for the first time instead of being separated into R-R and R-R Deutschland, takes second place and, by barely a gnat’s whisker, bumps Pratt & Whitney Canada to third place. Honeywell takes fourth place, followed by GE, CFE and CFM, but the score spread from first (8.09) to last place (7.32) is not great (see rating scale on page 53), suggesting that the efforts of all the manufacturers are succeeding to levels that do not vary wildly.

Among turboprop/turboshaft manufacturers, Rolls-Royce takes the top spot for product support, followed by Pratt & Whitney Canada (again just barely a gnat’s whisker behind Rolls), Honeywell and Turbomeca, with scores ranging from R-R’s 7.87 to Turbomeca’s 6.74. That’s a slightly bigger spread than for the ­turbofan manufacturers. The accompanying chart below shows the percentage changes for each manufacturer’s scores compared with last year’s survey; among turbofan builders GE improved its standing the most (almost 9 percent), and Rolls-Royce recorded the greatest gain (almost 13 percent) among turboprop/turboshaft builders.

This year for the first time we are putting all reader comments online (see box on the right side of this page)–sanitized so as not to identify the sender but still raw in their message.  

Williams International

Williams has a relatively narrow product line for business aviation, but the company earns top honors among AIN readers for how capably it supports the more than 3,500 FJ44s that power 11 different models of business aircraft and have logged some 5 million hours. Applica­tions of the smaller FJ33 remain under development, and for now the FJ44 is Williams’s sole bizjet engine.

Product support director Steve Shettler told AIN that Williams has expanded its capabilities for on-wing maintenance by increasing the number of technicians in its repair station who are able to travel and perform maintenance while the engines are still on wing, reducing operator downtime and expenses. “This is especially im­portant to our customers out­side the U.S. since shipping engines can take time and is expensive. These services are also included at no ­additional costs to our TAP [Total Assurance Program] customers,” he said. 

For better service with day-to-day issues or administration, Williams has improved its Web site by posting answers to “numerous” questions and allowing customers to ask questions directly to the product support team. “The Web site will also keep a record of all questions and answers for customers’ future reference, and customers can schedule and track engine maintenance online, pay invoices and run various reports,” simplifying the administrative and business-related tasks of operating their engines.

“Since our fleet continues to expand globally we have made it easier for service centers to become factory-authorized. This helps customers in regions where there are only a few aircraft to support to have a local service center do their maintenance. Service centers can economically fulfill requirements to become authorized for engine work even if they are supporting only one or two aircraft. We work closely with the airframe OEMs to ensure we align our customers’ service requirements,” Shettler said.

Readers’ comments rate Wil­liams highly on engine reliability.

Rolls-Royce’s scores this year cannot be compared directly with last year’s because, at the company’s request, all the business-aircraft engines have been combined under R-R rather than divided between R-R and R-R Deutschland.

Rolls-Royce has opened an office at Hong Kong Interna­tional Airport to ­support ­­busi­­ness aircraft ­exclusively; ­expanded BR710 shop capa­city by adding its facility at East Kilbride, UK; and opened its North America on-wing care headquarters just over a year ago. The company has also “Added several cus­tomer service managers in bothAsia and Europe [numbers and locations undisclosed]...Taken steps to increase parts availability by equipping each site across the globe with key part components and by expanding parts distribution centers in North America and Europe [locations undisclosed]…Made Corporate­Care coverage for business-
jet engines available to new and ­in-service engine operators, wherever they are located.”

By a margin of more than 50 to one, readers’ comments rave about the reliability of Rolls-Royce engines, but they continue to voice a fair measure of dissatisfaction with the technical manuals. They like the tech reps by a margin of 10 to one over those who aren’t happy with them.

Pratt & Whitney Canada
Basing its strategy on the prem­ise that, above all, customers want product performance, speedy response and ease of working with the manufacturer, P&WC has made “good progress” in the area of “ease of working with us,” according to Raffaele Virgili, vice president of customer service. “This is encouraging, but over the past year we have been working hard to raise our services to the next level.”

Phase One of the company’s new customer Web portal offers a fresh look and enhanced navigation for existing apps, with more content, ­functionality and apps to come. P&WC is currently benchmarking E-portal leaders in all industries and plans to launch Phase Two late this year by introducing new features such as Pubs Online and tools to report hours and cycles for the company’s Eagle service plan.

“Pubs Online will be a leap in service for our customers,” said Virgili. “It will allow them to purchase manuals, manage their subscriptions, provide feedback and view content through the customer portal. They will also receive alerts when new content is available and be able to download content at their convenience.” P&WC said this service could be available “in the coming months.”

P&WC also says it is working “to implement powerful Web publishing and guided troubleshooting capability. This will enable more intuitive navigation or advanced search for general and specialized users alike. The longer-term goal is to complement the standard ATA manuals with work instructions customized for the task at hand.”

Over the past year P&WC has been “building on the success of its Customer First Center,” launched in 2007 to make significant gains in AOG return-to-service time.  The CFirst center assembles “the best expertise from across key P&WC front-line services, including technical support, logistics, service engineering, engine maintenance programs and warranty.” This team follows a “total event management approach, ­taking full ownership and closely tracking each request until an aircraftis back in the air or every ­question is answered.” CFirst currently handles an annual average of 100,000 contacts and has “significantly” reduced return-to-service times, according to P&WC.

The company has opened new parts centers in Amsterdam and Singapore, and its stated goal in product support “is to be number one in our customers’ eyes every year, across all our markets,” according to Virgili.

P&WC earns enthusiastic com­ments for the reliability of its engines by a huge margin of 15 to one, and its tech reps are a hit with 10 times more readers than a miss. Tech manuals earn eight times more positive comments than negative, and AOG response 10 times more positive than negative.

Honeywell (including CFE)
Since Honeywell has centralized its customer call center to a single 24/7 team answering a single phone number, the company provided a similar response to AIN’s questions for both ­avionics and engines, including Honeywell-branded and CFE powerplants.

Located in Phoenix, Ariz., the response team “is provided with enhanced customer management tools that have reduced call handling times to minutes and allow agents to field tens of thousands of inquiries from across Honeywell’s broad service and product portfolio.” Customer-friendly processes include the acceptance of verbal purchase orders, and follow-up calls to the customer within 24 hours to ensure that AOGs have been satisfied and the customer received a positive experience, the company said.

“Significant resources” have been invested to enhance Hon­eywell’s aerospace customer por­tal e-commerce site at ­, which now provides pricing and parts availability information, online order placement and tracking, access to publications and auto­matic generation of ­e-mail order ­status. Later this year, additional features will include credit-card processing, ­access to invoices and online ­issuance of return authorizations.

Honeywell says that for improved global support it has expanded its Spex program, which handles more than 25,000 transactions annually “with 97 percent of all shipments (including mechanical line-replaceable units) shipping within 24 hours.” Expansion includes the staging of parts in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and India (including a Spex forward stocking location at Air Works), with delivery of more than 90 percent of the stocked parts or exchanges coming from within the region where they are required. “Because of the recent growth in emerging business aircraft regions, we’ve also added international authorized service centers in Latin America, the Middle East, China and India.”

For the reliability of its engines, Honeywell earns 22 positive comments for each negative. Tech manuals, however, are equally liked and disliked, as are the company’s cost-per-hour programs.

General Electric (including CFM)
GE’s business and general aviation fleet comprises some 5,000 engines dispersed among 75 countries. They include the CF34 turbofan (1,613 engines powering various Challengers and the Lineage 1000), CFM56-7B turbofan (232 engines powering BBJs), CFM56-5B turbofan (128 engines powering ACJs), CJ610 turbojet (1,114 engines powering old Learjets, Hansa Jets and Westwinds), CF700 turbofan (562 engines powering Falcon 20s and Sabre 75As), CFE738 turbofan (468 engines powering Falcon 2000s) and M601 turboprop (750 engines powering the Let-410, Thrush, Power 90, Lancair 410 and Turbo Legend).

Karl Kasparian, customer support program manager for Cincinnati-based GE Aviation Aircraft Engines, said his company has “invested heavily
in its product support and services for business and general aviation in the last few years.”

In 2008 GE took the best practices from its aviation operations center and added “special support offerings tailored specifically to business jet customers,” Kasparian said, creating the GE business jet operations center. One call connects customers directly with “a trained expert who can often answer their questions on the spot.” If an answer isn’t immediately available, customers receive a specific time when a response will be given. In the last year, GE has begun closely monitoring the team’s responsiveness to ensure these response commitments are met, and in June this year the team achieved a 98-percent response rate to customer requests.
For AOG part delivery performance, said Kasparian, “we are now averaging 4.5 hours from the initial call to part shipment, and mobile repair parties can be dispatched at a moment’s notice. Other enhancements to the business jet operations center in the last year were giving all cases AOG priority level, the addition of more field service engineers and streamlining the warranty fulfillment process.”

Laura Schreibeis was appointed as customer support and services director for GE Business and General Aviation last year. Schreibeis and her expanding team began by talking with customers to identify where improvements are needed, and in January this year GE launched the Customer Connect initiative to focus on five key areas: personalized customer touch; rapid response ­resolution; comprehensive train­­ing (en­suring customers have access to the latest engine man­uals and maintenance training support); predictive diagnosis (providing customers
with ­databased diagnostics services on performance issues before they become significant problems); and long-term service agreements.

GE gives welcome kits to customers who purchase or operate GE-powered business jets so they can navigate their way through the support process.
GE earns high praise for the reliability of its engines (16 positive comments for each negative) and AOG response (10 times more positive than negative), but could do better on parts availability and cost-per-hour program.

In the past year, Turbomeca said it has expanded its maintenance center network and increased the TBO and MTBF of several Arriel, Arrius and Makila engines. The Arrius 2B2 TBO, for example, has been increased to 4,000 hours from 3,000 and its MTBF to 7,300 hours from 6,200. At the end of last year the company launched Turbomeca IETP (in­teractive electronic technical publications), which “combines efficiency with user-friendliness and interactivity.”

Turbomeca’s tech manuals received no good comments and parts availability comments were mostly negative, but the tech reps and engine reliability are well regarded.

This year’s survey was devised by AIN’s editors and designed and administered by Newtown, Conn.-based Forecast International in full collaboration with AIN.