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Saturday, November 1, 2003

Honeywell Forecast Revisits Future Bizjet Sales Targets

Sherry Ditmer Text and photo by Dale Smith Kathlyn Horibe Bob Howie Dale Smith Roy Allen

At the 2003 NBAA Convention, Honeywell released its annual forecast for the business aviation market. Not surprisingly, the forecast is conservative, although it does project eventual growth, beginning ina couple of years.

There are signs that economic recovery is underway in the U.S. and this bodes well for the business jet market, according to Honeywell. Business jet deliveries during 2002 reached 676 aircraft valued at $10.1 billion, down 12 percent and 17 percent respectively from 2001. The forecast estimates total 2003 deliveries at 400 to 500 jets; only 221 were delivered during the first half of the year.

Backlogs at jet manufacturers stand at 1,400 to 1,500 aircraft, according to the Honeywell study. Projections for jet deliveries for the next decade are 7,600 jets, up 100 from the number Honeywell provided in its 2002 forecast.

This year’s forecast is more pessimistic than the 2002 forecast in terms of total jet deliveries through 2005. In about early 2004, total deliveries may drop to slightly more than 500 units, while the 2002 forecast expected a drop to less than 700 by early 2005.

There are bright spots, however, according to Honeywell, which surveyed 1,000 jet operators who fly more than 2,000 aircraft worldwide. The survey concluded that:

  • A brighter order picture for new business jets will coincide with economic recovery.
  • The current cycle delivery peak occurred in 2001; declined in 2002 and 2003, then 2004 [will be] flat followed by slow recovery.
  • Strong purchase plans, substantial new model backlogs and the promise of an improving economy help dampen the depth and duration of the current down-cycle.
  • Fractional share sales [are] strongly correlated to the U.S. economy and [are] expected to recover beginning next year.

The forecast predicts there will be 7,000 fractional share owners operating 1,200 aircraft by 2007, up from 731 aircraft and 4,115 owners in 2002.


Heritage Display Highlights Treasured Antiques

Stewarding a portion of our national history is an enormous undertaking. From September 11 to 14, 2003, the 5th Annual National Heritage Invitational Display – Western Competition, held in conjunction with the Reno Air Races, brought 35 aircraft from across the nation into a beautiful composition comprising flawless examples of antiques, classics, and warbirds.

The Invitational was established by Rolls-Royce in 1998, and along with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum and National Aviation Hall of Fame, seeks both to encourage and give recognition to those who have chosen the long and arduous, yet highly rewarding, path of aircraft restoration.

During the course of this four-day event, individual aircraft are judged for qualities of authenticity to original design, workmanship, attention to detail, and technical merit by a panel of five judges representing more than a century of restoration experience. Two of these judges are representatives of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum, which provides the judging criteria for technical experts.

Aircraft participating in the event are separated into three categories: antique (civilian designs manufactured 1935 or earlier), classic (civilian designs manufactured between 1935 and 1958), and warbird (military aircraft 45 years or older, restored to original condition). An overall winner is selected from the winners of each category, and their name, and the restoration facility name, are placed on the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trophy, to be displayed in the Air and Space Museum’s new wing at the Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport, scheduled to open in December.

In addition, the ‘People’s Choice’ award–won by popular vote–is presented by the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

Aircraft on display included an eclectic range of Wacos, Beech Staggerwings, Beech Executives, Navions, a Corsair, a B-25, P-51, the L-19 Bird Dog, and a Cessna 195.

The winner of the 2003 National Heritage Invitational–Western Competition was Larry and Doris Beck of Canby, Oregon, with their beautifully restored Beechcraft G17-S Staggerwing.

"The Heritage Display provides a forum for aircraft owners to display their love and passion for their aircraft," said ‘Sparky’ Sparks, a representative for the event. "Each airplane, and each owner, has their own story to tell,"

Ken Perich, head of the Western Competition, agrees: "We want to give a nod of appreciation to the people who put so much time and energy into restoring these aviation treasures. We wanted to provide a way for them to receive recognition for their efforts–for all their years of work, sweat, and toil. This also allows them national recognition by placing their names on the perpetual trophy."

"It can’t be easy trying to locate parts that went out of production 30 or 40 years ago," he said, "but these people do this all the time. We wanted to have a way to say thank you to them. Each airplane has its own story to tell, just ask any of the owners."



Flightstar Services the Dwindling but Still Strong Boeing 727 Fleet

Few people will argue that the venerable DC-3 should be credited as being the airplane that single-handedly shaped commercial aviation. In the past couple of decades, the same can be said for the role the Boeing 727 has played in building the world’s package and cargo delivery business.

Business partners Jerry Hernandez, Ray Rivera, and Juan Briz value the 727 as much as anyone. No, they don’t run a package delivery business. Their business, Flightstar Aircraft Services, has been built on converting and maintaining many of those 727s that the delivery companies rely on. And if you own or operate a 727, DC-9, MD-80, or 737, Flightstar’s phone number should probably be on your speed dial.

Flightstar’s team of technicians probably know today’s narrow-body fleet as well as the people who designed them. And that knowledge gives operators quality service, affordable pricing, and peace-of-mind.

"When we started the company in 1987, our goal was to build a business on the philosophy of seeing a project through and delivering the best service every step of the way," explained Jerry Hernandez, Flightstar’s president. "In this business, you’re only as good as your last airplane."

To maintain their high-level of quality, Flightstar has focused its efforts on doing exceptional work for a small portion of the market. "We know that if you deliver a good product, on budget and on time, that will set you apart in this business," he continued. "We are looking to build relationships with customers. We want to get to know them and become part of their operation so as they grow, we grow along with them."

Flightstar is obviously doing something right. Hernandez said that the company’s three hangars are full, with customers waiting in the wings. When Aviation Maintenance visited the Jacksonville, Florida facility there were all kinds of examples of Flightstar’s overhaul and maintenance talents on display: one 727 was in for a cargo door conversion, another was in for heavy maintenance, and a corporate conversion was undergoing service in a neighboring hangar.

Among its long list of services, Flightstar is approved to handle A, B, C, and D checks, engine changes, FedEx Stage III installations, avionics modifications, structural repairs, passenger-to-freighter conversions, wash, strip, and full paint, fuel tank repairs, and just about anything else that needs to be done to keep 727s flying safely.

And that full menu of services is keeping Flightstar busy. "We’re putting in around 30,000 manhours a month in overhauls and general work," Hernandez said. "We’re on our 23rd cargo door conversion, and we’re just beginning a 10-airplane conversion program for Boeing Capital."

Flightstar’s owners feel that the company’s experience and reputation for quality work aren’t the only reasons why customers fly to Jacksonville. Another big draw is the way Flightstar treats its customers. "Your reputation really gets around in this business and it’s the best way to get people to know who you are and what sets you apart," added Matt Eaton, Flightstar’s corporate development manager. "We recently had a customer come in at 12:30 a.m. to deliver his airplane and he was pleasantly surprised to find the president of the company right there showing them where to park. But if that’s what we need to do to meet our customers’ needs, that’s what we will do.

"In this industry it helps to know who you are talking to and that they know what they are talking about," he added. "We value all of our customers and treat them all alike. Sure we’d love to find a United or Southwest Airlines, but we wouldn’t treat them any different than our current customers."

While the trusty 727 is still going strong, Flightstar knows that the end of an era is in sight. "For a lot of operators it’s difficult to find a replacement for what the 727 can do," Hernandez said, "what it can carry, what it costs. Even the requirement for a third pilot [flight engineer] isn’t a problem.

"But we talk to our customers and they feel they’ll fly them until their next D check, four or five years down the road, then probably retire them," he said. "So we’re already looking at the next generation. The 737 and 757 will be a good alternative for the future."

And that future is what the Flightstar team is preparing for. The company is looking for a larger facility that will triple the current hangar floor space. Flightstar has also begun in-house training for some of the specialized skills technicians will need to work on these airplanes.

"We came here four years ago with four employees and today we have more than 250 professionals working for us, "Hernandez said. "We’ve grown fast by doing things right and that’s not going to change as long as I’m around."


Simfinity Simplifies Boeing Fault Finding

To support its customers more efficiently, Boeing is employing CAE’s online aircraft simulation software to diagnose problems.

Boeing’s customer support engineers and field service representatives access the troubleshooting and training tool, CAE Simfinity, via the Internet. Using this real-time virtual diagnostic tool, which is based on the same simulation software used in CAE’s flight simulators, technicians can validate the fault diagnostic and reproduce the aircraft fault conditions, whether they occurred on the ground or in flight. The use of real-time simulation ensures that the system’s response is aligned with the aircraft’s operational characteristics.

Developed three years ago, CAE Simfinity is an integrated solution that trains pilots and maintenance personnel. The desktop products display cockpit panels and instruments, while the three-dimensional trainers feature six to seven touch-sensitive screens.

"The main advantage of using a virtual airplane tool to explore a problem such as troubleshooting," explained Larry Little, Boeing technical service engineering manager, integrated programs team leader, "is the depth of the simulation’s reliability. The high-fidelity simulations allow the troubleshooter to examine the situation thoroughly–even from a distant location away from the airplane–and all from a PC. This ability to access these tools remotely increases their usefulness."

Using re-hosted software, i.e., actual airplane software, provides further reinforcement, he added, that the system is operating identical to the airplane.

With a library of malfunctions to choose from, tools like Simfinity can also be used to guide an employee through a procedure or conduct self-paced, remote training to personnel located anywhere. This ease of access reduces maintenance technician downtime as well as a company’s travel, housing, and instructor costs.

In a move toward efficiency as a result of the economic downturn, Kamilia Sofia, CAE’s vice president, integrated training solutions, Civil Simulation and Training Division, said airlines will depend more and more on the Internet. "I perceive more and more distance learning and just-in-time training, especially for maintenance. For example, a mechanical problem on an incoming aircraft gets communicated to the ground and the just-in-time virtual tool could train the engineer on the right procedure prior to its arrival. Troubleshooting in a virtual environment would have a huge impact on turnaround times at the gate, translating into dollar savings for airlines."

Boeing has a five-year, multi-million dollar agreement to use CAE Simfinity.


Interface Eases Messy Chemical Issues

Anyone want to hazard a guess as to how many types of chemicals in the forms of grease, oil, solvents–even down to the number of tubes of Loctite–airlines might use in a given year? Or how about the number of hours airlines spend each year keeping up with the purchasing, documentation, use, waste, and proper disposal of those chemicals?

It doesn’t matter, you say, if a half-tube of Loctite isn’t used; just toss it in the waste barrel as a cost of doing business?

That kind of thinking is going to bite you in both ends; one bite from the lack of cost control, the second and possibly most serious bite coming from the Environmental Protection Agency, which is tightening its grip on chemical controls and emissions in the aviation industry.

Cost control is a problem that airline auditors have to worry about and, to some degree, managing chemical stores is, too. There is a company that can provide assistance, in the form of chemicals acquisition and regulatory compliance.

Greenville, South Carolina-based Interface (www.interface-llc.com) is taking the headache out of compliance issues by offering its clients, chief among them Delta Air Lines, next-day delivery of chemical consumables, whether it’s several barrels of hydraulic fluid or that tube of Loctite. A key component of that service, though, isn’t about oil and grease, it’s about paperwork.

"What’s going on, "said Michael Bernhardt, Interface’s director of business development, is that [the regulatory issues] governing tracking of chemicals from purchase to disposal and all the paperwork that is involved are becoming increasingly important.

"Airlines today don’t want to inventory all the chemicals they might need, and some chemicals have shelf-lives, so airlines want to outsource acquisition so that all their various chemicals they might use are bought only in quantities they need at the time in order to cut waste and for the chemicals to be fresh," he said. "Interface not only supplies that need, but keeps up with all the usages and documentation."

Delta Air Lines managers first recognized that systematic tracking of airline chemicals usage was gaining increasing interest from the EPA and developed methods to begin the required documenting. Delta managers also decided they could save time and money by outsourcing fulfillment of those needs as well as purchasing on demand just the quantities of chemicals needed.

Interface, a small company at the time, grew from Delta’s need.

"We track and keep in stock all the chemicals our clients use," Bernhardt said, "and our turnaround time when we get an order is 90 minutes; that’s how long it takes us to fill it and ship it."

Using proprietary software and tracking techniques, Interface keeps up with its clients’ usage and disposals, filling out the appropriate documentation along the way so that there’s a clear track from birth through use and what becomes of the products later on down the line.

"The need for airlines to obtain timely, dependable delivery of chemicals in a cost-effective manner is growing as is the demand for better recordkeeping so that compliance doesn’t become an issue," he said. "As that demand grows, so will the demand for services such as ours."


PrivateSky Committed to Better Gulfstream Maintenance

When Vincent Wolanin found a bunch of surprise charges on the maintenance bill for his G-II, he didn’t get mad, but started a company that would keep other Gulfstream owners from experiencing the same problem.

"PrivateSky Aviation Services was formed after the purchase of our company Gulfstream to provide maintenance and management for the jet," explained Vincent Wolanin, PrivateSky’s chairman. "At that point, other Gulfstream owners that told me there was a great deal of dissatisfaction with the attention to detail and quality of workmanship going on in the industry.

"Royce Stevens [who is now PrivateSky’s general manager] and I became friends during this time and we felt that there was a need for a first-class maintenance center for Gulfstream aircraft," he added. "What we want to do is to recreate what happened back in the early days of Gulfstream aircraft when the customer had a lot of trust when they brought their aircraft into the facility for maintenance."

One of the biggest elements missing from other Gulfstream service providers, at least from Wolanin’s experience (and other owners concurred), was a real commitment to quality and consistency. So when he and the PrivateSky management team began envisioning their company, the first thing they did was create a roadmap to what they call Total Excellence.

"Total Excellence was a concept we created when we originally envisioned the business," Wolanin explained. "And it’s something we are totally committed to." To ensure that Total Excellence would receive much more than lip service, Wolanin talked with every Gulfstream operator he could find. Since he couldn’t change the aircraft, he asked questions about what they did and didn’t like about their current service center.

What he found was that the owners felt their service providers weren’t committed to quality. They were often "just throwing parts at a problem," instead of taking the time to carefully troubleshoot a solution.

Operators also complained that the quotes they received up front were all too often up to 50 percent less than the final bill, a problem Wolanin encountered with his G-II and that led to the creation of PrivateSky.

"Too many maintenance providers just expect customers to know what extra work has to be done while their airplane is down," Wolanin said. "So they just add it on outside the original quote. It can be very embarrassing for the maintenance director to tell his boss one price then when the bill comes, it is actually quite a bit more."

Wolanin said other operators told him they wanted to find a facility where they know everything that is happening to their airplane and how much it is going to cost–as closely as possible anyway–so there are no surprises when the final bill comes.

"Our goal is to make the maintenance chief the hero," Wolanin said. "Our quotes cover everything we know that has to be done with the airplane. If something comes up that we don’t expect, we contact the customer and tell them. Then, when the work is done, we sit down with them and go over every item on the list prior to their leaving our facility."

PrivateSky’s customers benefit from more than just accurate quotes. "Our team of factory-trained technical experts have a combined total of more than 300 years experience working on Gulfstreams," explained Royce Stevens, PrivateSky’s general manager, director, and FAA DAR. "We pride ourselves in being able to successfully troubleshoot and resolve aircraft problems."

One example of their troubleshooting skill was recently illustrated when an operator came in with a problem they had been chasing for more than three years. "The pilot said they had spent more than $200,000 at the factory trying to find and fix the problem," Wolanin said. "Our guys spent time carefully troubleshooting the airplane and found the problem to be in a part that cost less than $100–that’s a true story. That customer comes here for maintenance now. They have faith in us."

Stevens pointed out that training plays a big role in the Total Excellence program. "The ability to properly repair and maintain Gulfstreams comes from expertise gained through a combination of on-the-job training as well as traditional classroom training on aircraft systems and operations," he said. "Our goal is to have the highest level of technical expertise in the industry."

Wolanin said that the 30 technicians presently on staff all take great pride in what they do. "When you expect technicians to work on 30 different airplanes, when they have to troubleshoot something they just throw parts at it," he explained. "By concentrating on one type of aircraft, they really get to know the methodology of trouble-shooting that type. And it creates situations where repairs are done right the first time and usually in less time."

Another big draw to helping PrivateSky attract the best Gulfstream technicians around is the location in sunny Ft. Myers, Florida. Not a bad place to get ‘stuck’ while your Gulfstream is getting attention.

Wolanin said PrivateSky has been deluged by resumes from technicians wanting a great place to work and to live. And they’ve got it. PrivateSky’s state-of-the-art hanger is not only beautiful, it’s functional. In keeping with the Total Excellence concept, the hangar features total environmental control. "Customers said they wanted a place where their sophisticated airplanes wouldn’t be exposed to too much heat and humidity while they are being maintained," Wolanin said. "So we provide 40,000 square feet of air-conditioned space. Enough room to house six to nine Gulfstreams at a time, depending on the models."

The hangar has an overhead crane allowing technicians to remove and reinstall engines and tail sections safely. "PrivateSky performs BRR and Rolls-Royce engine changes on the Gulfstream II, III, IV, and V," he said. "That allows us to offer even more services to our customers. If they’re traveling to Europe or South America and have a problem, they know there’s a place that delivers top-shelf quality and service in a wonderful location."


Rolls-Royce Joins Predictive Mx Market

The argument goes that if engines could talk they would save hours of pointless maintenance inspections by telling the ground team of actual problems as they arise and precisely what those problems are. Rolls-Royce has come pretty close to achieving this with its new Predictive Maintenance product, which not only alerts MRO teams to the prospect of immediate and longer-term engine trouble but does it in flight, relaying it to the ground base.

Predictive Maintenance, or RRPM as the company calls it, lets operators know in advance of incipient failures, allowing them to take corrective action before the actual failure. This can eliminate all but one risk of the business, lower costs, and deliver a significantly more predictable maintenance program.

Rolls has had the system under development for a couple of years, proved it in 2002, and decided to offer it for entry-into-service use on the Trent 900 for the Airbus A380. RRPM has since been field tested on two A340 flight test aircraft and will shortly be flown on a Boeing 777. One test was conducted at HK Aero Engine Services in Hong Kong.

The first application of RRPM on the A380 will be on the Trent 970 engines of Singapore Airlines in early 2006, when the airline will become the first operator of the 555-seat jet.

Predictive Maintenance is one outcome of a joint venture between Rolls-Royce and Science Applications International (SAIC), which was set up in February 1999 and manifest in the form of Data Systems & Solutions, or DS&S. This joint company now has 900 employees and annual revenues of $130 million and serves energy, road, rail, and oil, gas, and petrochemical industries as well as the aerospace market. DS&S is jointly owned by SAIC and Rolls-Royce.

Early generation engine health monitoring systems analyze data collected as snapshots during normal flight conditions, including gas path temperatures and pressures, fuel flow, oil system parameters, vibration levels, and so forth. In addition, data about the thrust setting will be collected, and airspeed, altitude, and ambient temperature. In older aircraft the pilot may write down readings or use a portable computer to record data.

The technology for RRPM is based on using analytical methods to ensure as much data reduction as possible. Computational techniques are then employed to detect anomalies and diagnose underlying physical causes.

RRPM fuses both mechanical and thermodynamic data to analyze engine behavior, according to Paul Anuzis, chief of reliability, airline business for Rolls-Royce. It thus sees and predicts both thermodynamic trends and mechanical failures. RRPM contains a datum engine model that has a thermodynamic/mechanical model of the engine built up from development and service data and can be updated as required.

The system takes input engine data and compares this fused data with the datum engine model in real time using feature detectors. These algorithms consist of neural network elements originally designed for the monitoring of human health.

A library of health warning features is built into the system and the software is configurable to include new features. The features permit instant diagnosis of an occurrence, which is then communicated to the ground base. On confirmation, this information is then transmitted to the maintenance provider for appropriate action.

RRPM thus monitors engines continuously throughout flight, and this offers protection to operators for every second of flight. In flight, the system only reports if it sees an event; on most flights the system will passively monitor each engine and make no communication. But if the system detects an unusual occurrence it will communicate this to the ground for further analysis. This is done through the enginedatacenter.com web portal. If it is clear that action should be taken the operator will be informed, potentially before the aircraft has landed. At the end of each flight the system sends data to the ground base to provide a comprehensive engine health trend service.

Analysis has shown that RRPM can improve engine reliability by cutting in-flight shutdowns by 45 percent, aborted take-offs by 50 percent, and unplanned removals by 60 percent. The technique also provides benefit for overhaul companies and manufacturers from more efficient assessments of engine conditions when received for overhaul. When translated into maintenance cost savings, millions of dollars annually are expected from RRPM.

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