The top three spots for product support among turbofan builders remain unchanged this year from last year’s rankings: Williams retains the number-one position, followed by Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney Canada, separated this year by one hundredth of a point.
Last year Honeywell beat GE by just one hundredth of a point; this year, the two companies tied for fourth with 7.63. CFE brings up the rear, and CFM did not receive enough responses to qualify.
Among turboprop manufacturers, Pratt & Whitney Canada keeps the top spot; Honeywell moves up to second place this year from third place last year, displacing Rolls-Royce to third place this year from second place last year. Turbomeca remains last in the rankings.
With few exceptions, respondents are overwhelmingly satisfied with the overall reliability of their engines, and the bulk of this survey examines the ups and downs of the process at work behind the success of this ultimate goal–that the engines must run every time, no matter what. Except where noted, the majority of comments were favorable for each manufacturer by service category. Comments reproduced here should not be taken to represent the broader norm but rather excursions from the majority, positive experience, and they are included for engine manufacturers to consider as they plan further structural improvements to their product support. Comments on cost-per-hour engine maintenance programs had a consistent message: “Yearly increases are excessive and bear no relation to inflation; we send large quantities of money to [engine manufacturer/plan administrator] and don’t have to worry about too much; high price but worth the peace of mind.” JSSI was singled out by one TFE731 operator: “JSSI saved our bacon on a fleet-wide AD that affected two of our three engines. Two R&Rs plus teardown/rebuild plus loaners…all covered!”
As we did last year, AIN asked each engine manufacturer to describe the three most important improvements it has made to product support in the past year.
Survey leader Williams made no major changes in product support over the past year, but the company is clearly continuing to provide what customers need to remain operational. More than 3,500 Williams FJ44s power about a dozen different models of business aircraft, and they have logged some five million hours. Progress with airplane programs destined to use the smaller FJ33 has suffered at the hands of the recession and the scarcity of capital, and the FJ44 remains Williams’ sole bizjet engine in service.
Product support director Steve Shettler told AIN, “Recently we started publishing service bulletins on our website, and they are available to anyone who logs in at www.williams-int.com.” He also noted that “Increased support has been given to our customers outside the U.S. By expanding our mobile teams we are able to do more maintenance on-wing and minimize downtime for customers. In addition, we continue to expand our inventory levels in Europe to help provide quick dispatch of parts for maintenance.”
The majority of the Williams-powered bizjet fleet is enrolled in one of the engine manufacturer’s Total Assurance Programs, “which provide exceptional discounts and predictable costs compared with paying retail. This allows operators to focus on flying their airplane, free from unplanned expenses,” Shettler noted.
Some comments: “Williams needs to have a factory facility on an airport so we can fly right to them”…“Disappointed with part replacement for the diffuser issue”…“AOG on a Friday morning, I was told to call back on Monday because everyone was off for a three-day holiday weekend. Apparently there is no one on call for emergencies during holidays”…“Landed with engine problem at 9 a.m. Wednesday; by 7 p.m. Friday technicians were finishing paperwork after installing loaner engine. Doesn’t get much better than that.”
Acknowledging that it places strong emphasis on the results of this survey each year, Rolls-Royce has focused its energies on improving AOG response; developing a future global network of authorized service centers; and “transitioning internal processes online” to improve worldwide customer communications.
The company says it is reviewing every aspect of AOG responsiveness–from initial communication, parts availability, personnel training, payment processing, shipping and handling to the global network infrastructure–to significantly improve customer turnaround time. It says it has already increased BR700 and Tay parts inventory in the U.S., and plans to boost this by a further 30 percent by year-end. Plans are under way to provide parts inventory for the BR725, which will require an additional 400 unique part numbers to be stocked by the time the new engine enters service on the Gulfstream G650 next year.
As part of planned improvements for its authorized service center network, Rolls-Royce entered into a memorandum of understanding with Embraer at Labace by which the engine manufacturer will boost its capabilities at Embraer’s service center in São José dos Campos, Brazil. The plan will establish the facility as an authorized service center for the AE3007As that power the Legacy 600 and 650.
At its training center in Indianapolis, Rolls introduced two new classes for the BR725–borescope inspections, and line and base maintenance training. Also, Optimized Systems and Solutions has introduced a new AE3007 training class on engine health and monitoring.
Some comments: “Very disappointed in support of leaking oil scavenge pump in nose bullet [of Spey]. Rolls has worked leaking pumps twice on both engines and they are still leaking. Each visit by an R-R service team is very expensive and Rolls says it won’t do a third visit under warranty, even though it hasn’t corrected the original problem”…“R-R has a lot to do to improve product support and parts availability in Brazil [AE3007 operator]”…“Parts availability [for BR700 series] seems to be the Achilles heel of this once proud organization”…“If you get the right person at Rolls [for AOG response], they’ll move heaven and earth for you. If you don’t, good luck”…“Almost always discussions [on warranty fulfillment]…It’s either black or white, no gray area…It’s always no first, then much arm-twisting…Rolls makes all its customers fight a protracted battle to get the warranty they paid for. In the end, Rolls may honor the warranty and the customer will be supported, but only after considerable ill-will is generated”…“We’ve been promised improvements and the [BR700] manuals are still overly complicated, hard to use and not laid out in a rational format. Thankfully, Gulfstream also publishes engine task cards through its cmp.net program, and they are infinitely easier to use.” Tech reps singled out for consistently good work: Ken Shou, Darren Cole, Zane Cox, Mary Cote and Ed Bailiff.
Pratt & Whitney Canada
With more than 48,000 engines in the field, P&WC has plenty of work in product support and it focuses on three primary areas to keep its customers happy: product performance, speed of response and ease of working with the company. “We have achieved 10-percent reliability improvement in our engines over the past five years,” says Raffaele Virgili, v-p of customer service. A year ago, P&WC relocated its parts distribution center (PDC) to Memphis, Tenn., allowing customers to place parts orders until midnight EST for normal next-day delivery. “This initiative supports the company’s objective of improving its return-to-service performance, which currently averages 24 hours for AOG support within North America,” notes Virgili. For international customers, the company has revised its policy for stocking PDCs in Singapore, Amsterdam and Sydney to improve AOG response time in each region. Globally, AOG parts leave the P&WC PDC less than two hours after the customer calls.
P&WC’s mobile response teams (MRTs, now fielding more than 90 technicians) also play an important part in AOG return to service. Most recently in the U.S., the company has established MRTs in Houston and Jacksonville. Overseas, MRTs deploy from Luton, England, and Sorocaba, Brazil.
In the goal for speed at its factory-owned service centers, the company is developing and implementing best practices to reduce the time it takes to overhaul engines. “In 2011 we reduced our turnaround times by 18 percent compared with our performance in 2010,” notes Virgili. Worldwide, P&WC has more than 800 rental engines available to keep customers flying while their own engines undergo overhaul.
P&WC has eliminated the minimum annual utilization requirement from its Eagle Service Plan pay-per-hour maintenance program, making it more accessible to lower-utilization corporate and GA operators. The company has streamlined the contracts management process for its Fleet Management Program. More than 7,000 engines are enrolled in a P&WC pay-per-hour program now.
P&WC’s PT6Nation.com microsite has been well received by operators, pilots and fans of the mainstay turboprop engine, and an online diagnostic tool for the PW100 and PW300 allows technicians to identify and resolve engine problems quickly and efficiently, says P&WC.
Among the many favorable comments for P&WC are a rash of brickbats for PW500 parts availability, with negative comments outweighing positive five to one–operators are particularly frustrated with replacement of fuel control units in the wake of a service bulletin. Ian Chambers (“very helpful”) and Robert Salyers (“he makes P&WC look great…terrific asset to P&WC”) are singled out for their work as tech reps.
On overall engine reliability, P&WC logged 81 positive and mostly wildly enthusiastic comments against seven negative.
GE has hosted two different customer advisory councils “and actively engaged with more customers on a regular basis,” according to Laura Schreibeis, director of customer support for business and general aviation. The company also launched a new, more user-friendly website (www.geaviation.com/bga/) focused on service and support. It provides AOG hotline numbers, contact names, FAQs, links to online parts ordering and so on. The website is also the place to sign up for traditional classroom training or access new online training modules and refresher videos.
GE has 33 authorized service centers for its bedrock bizav engine, the CF34, and 16 more are “in process.” Of these 33, nine are outside the U.S., located in Germany, the UK, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Venezuela and South Africa. Seven of the 33 have been appointed since October last year, and they are in Germany, the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Venezuela and South Africa.
In the past year GE has added eight people to its business aviation product support team in various capacities–field service engineers, customer support managers, services, sales and marketing, “with plans for additional personnel in 2012.”
Comments on warranty fulfillment were about evenly split, ranging from “GE Dallas did not follow through on even close to estimates; unresponsive; very poor on communications, excuses” to “hesitant” and “very good.” Technical reps also received a mixed bag of compliments (“Easy to reach and prompt in response”…“Dave Bennett has always provided expert help and is very reliable”) and complaints (“Can’t seem to get them to answer their phones, and never receive a return call”…“Poor, erratic response, quiet until bill time, crazy excuses. Really was unprofessional”). On overall reliability, the CF34 gets a unanimous thumbs up among all respondents: “Bulletproof”…“Excellent during our combined 26 years of operating two different aircraft”…“Never a hiccup”…“100-percent reliability in our fleet” and so on.
Honeywell (including CFE)
Honeywell says its goal is to have a part available within region to meet any customer request, and within the past year it has added to its regional reach by installing forward stocking locations in Brazil and India, for a total of 20 worldwide–each of which is receiving more stock to handle normal exchanges and AOGs. The company has also added many flight-critical LRUs to its Spex pools, “resulting in a much simpler, common approach to ordering exchanges and has greatly improved regional availability of key mechanical components.” From its Spec pools, Honeywell says it ships 25,000 transactions per year, 97 percent of them within 24 hours.
Feedback from Honeywell’s global operator advisory board has prompted the company to simplify user interface at the company’s Web portal, www.myaerospace.com The engine manufacturer also says it has “completely redesigned the technical publications section and new user registration process.”
Comments on factory service center were overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic but the small minority of squeaky wheels had troubling tales: “Eight months to have [TPE331] hot sections completed while waiting for parts. Kept promising delivery. Wish there was a competitor, because we would definitely look at switching. Would not recommend buying an aircraft with these engines.” A TFE731 operator had this to say: “Honeywell Houston did an MPI on our right engine, and when it was reinstalled it had less power. Honeywell refuses to address the issue because it meets minimum specs. Not right! When an engine goes in for mandatory inspection it should come back at least as good as it went in.” Authorized service centers get high praise, with 39 positive and neutral comments to zero negative comments. Parts availability, on the other hand, garnered almost equal numbers of pro and con comments, and the negative comments reappeared in AOG response. Among tech reps, Jack Wolf and Ed Leadley are singled out for high praise; Bob McCurdy’s retirement is not well received by the operators who have enjoyed his dedication to the job; “Homer is great” for the TPE331; and Andrew Paton “does an exceptional job.” By a margin of 77 to six, Honeywell’s engines earn kudos for overall reliability. Two operators look to a higher authority: Mission Air Services describes TPE331 performance as “Excellent, thank God.” In a two-handed compliment Royal Unibrew Air Service says “Thank God the [TPE331s] are so reliable, otherwise…”
Turbomeca says its entire in-service engine fleet achieved a “yearly service rate” of 94 percent most recently; electronic engine control units reached a rate of 99 percent, and fuel control units/hydromechanical units achieved 92 percent. However, the definition of this benchmark that the company provided to AIN is not enlightening: “Service rates measure the performance of Turbomeca towards its operators. Basically they are AOG on-time delivery (OTD), repair turnaround time, technical assistance OTD, warranty OTD, spare parts OTD. The objective for all is 95 percent except for AOG, which is 98 percent.” But Turbomeca did not define what it is shooting for 95 percent or 98 percent of.
Helicopter engine TBOs have been increased as follows:
• Arriel 1D1, to 3,600 hours from 3,000
• Arriel 2C2 and 2S2, to 3,500 hours from 3,000
• Arrius 2B2, to 4,000 hours from 3,000
• Arrius 2F, to 3,000 hours from 2,000
On reliability, the company notes the following improvements in powerplant mean time between failure over the past five years:
• Arriel 1, to 5,600 hours from 4,100
• Arriel 2, to 6,600 hours from 4,000
• Arrius 2B and 2K, to 7,300 hours from 6,200
• Makila 1, to 5,400 hours from 4,000
Negative comments outweighed positive for parts availability, but respondents were unanimously impressed with overall engine reliability.