NBAA Convention News

Mover & Shakers: Ian Aitken

 - September 20, 2007, 7:31 AM

Having won the contract to supply new technology turbofan engines for the Dassault SMS, an emerging super-midsize business jet design from the French manufacturer, Rolls-Royce is in Atlanta this week exuding optimism for itself and the industry in general. Ian Aitken, president of Rolls-Royce North America business and regional aircraft engines, spoke with NBAA Convention News about his company’s successes and prospects, its progress in developing new technology and the worldwide outlook for business aviation over the next two decades.

What is Rolls-Royce’s current involvement in business aviation?
We currently hold 34 percent of the market, by value, with more than 3,000 medium and large business jets relying on Rolls-Royce power. In 2006, Rolls-Royce delivered 328 AE3007, Tay and BR710 engines for business aircraft. Rolls-Royce engines have powered six new business jets entering service in the last four years: the Gulfstream G550 in 2003, the G500 in 2004, and the G450 and G350 in 2005, along with Bombardier’s Global 5000 and Global Express XRS in that same year.

The Tay and BR710 are great successes at Gulfstream and Bombardier. How was Rolls-Royce able to capture this market?
In the case of the Tay, we responded to Gulfstream’s requirement in the early 1980s for reliability and performance. The Tay has since become the industry standard for reliability and predictability. The latest version, the Tay 611-8C, incorporates electronic engine control, part of the major systems upgrade in the transition from the G400 to the G450.

The BR710 enabled the creation of a whole new business aircraft class, the ultra-long-range jets from Bombardier and Gulfstream, which require outstanding fuel efficiency and good high-altitude performance to achieve their more than 6,000-nautical-mile range. The common thread between these two products is our outstanding customer support. Operators expect high availability, and rightly so. Our industry-leading service and aftermarket support network are vital in achieving this. Rolls-Royce CorporateCare is the industry’s most comprehensive engine maintenance management program and has been developed in response to customer demand. In short, the key to capturing this market has been listening and responding to the customer.
What is the future of the AE3007 engine family?
We see an excellent future for the engine. Product upgrades are being planned to offer improved performance, which will keep the engine competitive on its current applications at Cessna and Embraer.

What key drivers will affect the business jet market in the next 10 to 20 years?
The four main ones are, first, economic growth in traditional markets. The number of billionaires and millionaires is growing at an increasing rate. Demand from wealthy individuals, corporate profits and the value of the stock markets are good indicators of business jet demand, and will all continue to increase.

Second, globalization is creating new markets. We see significant growth in the rest of the world, which used to account for 25 percent of deliveries but which we now see making up as much as 60 percent of some manufacturers’ orders.

The next factor involves structural changes such as very light jets and crossover by the premium-class airline traveler. Anecdotal evidence, though inconclusive at the moment, suggests demand shifting away from the airlines. The main drivers here are ATC delays, lowered service levels and the so-called “security hassle factor.” The advent of large-scale fractional operations has led to a significant increase in demand as more people have access to business jets.

This growth will continue, albeit at a lower rate. Fractional card plans further beckon users who are new to the business jet market. VLJs may spur growth of business travel, although the success of large-scale air-taxi operations will be key to overall VLJ demand.

Finally, there is the replacement factor. Less than 8 percent of all business aircraft ever built have been retired. In the long term, nearly all will need to
be replaced.

What does Rolls-Royce forecast as the fastest growing industry segment?
In terms of aircraft units, entry-level and light business jets are poised to deliver the most units over the next 20 years. The medium-to-large jet classes will, however, see the greatest percentage increase in volume over that period, at 57 percent. They and the long-range aircraft class continue to produce the highest aircraft and engine value. Overall, each segment will grow through the forecast period and there will be a large number of attractive choices for prospective business jet customers.

What does Dassault’s selection of Rolls-Royce for its super-midsize jet mean for that engine program?
The agreement marks an historic step in developing our corporate aircraft engine business and officially launches the first of a family of new Rolls-Royce engines in the 10,000-pound-thrust range. We are delighted to partner with Dassault, one of the world’s premier aerospace companies, and look forward to a long and successful relationship.

What is the market definition of a super-midsize jet?
The market defines the SMS business jet as typically seating eight passengers with a range of 3,300 to 4,000 nm.

What engine will power the Dassault SMS?
It will be a new engine to be officially named in the near future, developed from our ongoing technology acquisition program, internally designated as RB282, which has been under way for the past seven years. Recent activity has included work on compressor and fan rigs, emissions reduction and lean-burn combustors, and at the same time assigning some of the activity to collaborative technology programs. The RB282 effort is targeting a range of engines in the 6,000- to 30,000-pound-thrust class and will result in a family of engines for the corporate jet and single-aisle airliner market.

Which other aircraft projects are you targeting?
We are constantly talking with the major aircraft manufacturers of corporate and regional jets about their requirements. We respect their need for confidentiality so we are not in a position to discuss their specific study programs.

What are Rolls-Royce’s growth prospects in the aerospace service sector, especially with CorporateCare?
Rolls-Royce has set records for CorporateCare contracts in each of the last two years, and we are approaching a third consecutive record year. As we continue to deliver new engines and operators recognize the value that our services program provides, we will continue to see growth in our aftermarket services. CorporateCare provides, the customer with predictable engine maintenance costs and transfers engine risk to Rolls-Royce. Customers enrolled in CorporateCare benefit from higher aircraft residual values as well as predictability and control of maintenance costs. We are constantly evaluating additional services and programs to improve aircraft availability and enhance aircraft asset value.