Rolls-Royce: 8,000 engines and counting 

 

Rolls-Royce has delivered the 8,000th engine manufactured at its German facility in Dahlewitz, the company announced late last week. Good news in a time of uncertainty for Rolls-Royce and the business aviation industry as the world emerges from lockdown. The milestone engine, a BR725 powerplant, was delivered to Gulfstream and will be installed on a Gulfstream G650ER.
 

Locatedimmediately south of Berlin, the Dahlewitz facility began production in 1995 and today employs approximately 3,000 who assemble the BR710, BR725, and Pearl 15 engines for various business jets as well as the Trent XWB for the Airbus A350. It is also the company’s centre of excellence for business aviation and houses the development and testing facilities dedicated to the new power gearbox for the UltraFan demonstrator programme. 

 

More than 4,700 BR700 family engines have been built since Rolls-Royce started  the programme and the fleet has recorded more than 27m cumulative operating hours. 

 

“We are very proud of this achievement, which comes as the result of 25 years of hard, dedicated work from our Dahlewitz team,” said Dirk Geisinger, director of business aviation for Rolls-Royce and chairman of Rolls-Royce Deutschland. “I’m especially proud of our employees who are committed, even in these unprecedented times, to delivering world-class products and to supporting our global customer base.” 

 

Geisinger noted the unprecedented nature of the current global climate due to Covid-19’s impact. Last month, Rolls-Royce announced it will have to cut 17% of its workforce – around 9,000 jobs. Furthermore, to ensure rapid adjustment, CEO Warren East said that the company aims to make at least half of the job cuts this year.  

 

Despite opposition from unions, financial commentators have recognised the financial necessity of the move. Sandy Morris, an analyst with Jefferies International, said while cuts are an essential step further clarity needs to be provided on the nature of the cost savings.  

 

East said the company would consider taking advantage of the UK government’s Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility, but he noted it would “be a relatively small amount of funding”. 

 

Rolls-Royce has already taken some steps to guarantee itself extra liquidity by announcing in April that it would suspend its dividend and borrow £1.5bn to boost reserves. Rolls also nearly halved its forecast for engine deliveries this year, and now plans to produce 250, down from its previous estimate of 450 engines. 

 

Meanwhile, earlier this month, James Prater, VP Customer Services Business Aviation with Rolls-Royce, told Corporate Jet Investor’s Town Hallabout the benefits of the manufacturer’s virtual reality training programme for its BR725 engine. Watch his comments here. 

 

 

Large Business Jet Sales Cool

20 May 2020 – As the last decade commenced, the world had an insatiable appetite for the biggest of corporate jets notes Brian Foley. More recently though, that love affair has broken up as many of the previous demand drivers have gone the way of the Harlem Shake and planking.

 

Back then, the large jet category, capable of whisking passengers between continents, was still a relatively new jet segment with demand outstripping supply. Some of the newly-minted models included Gulfstream’s G450, G550 and G650, Bombardier’s Global 5000 and 6000 and Dassault’s Falcon 7X. Impatient buyers were known to have paid multi-million dollar premiums to existing order holders to jump to the front in the line instead of waiting 2 to 5 years for their new airplane.

 

During the financial crisis of 2007-2008, these luxo-barges proved to be recession-proof too. As the lower end of the business jet market collapsed, in part due to buyers not having the financial wherewithal to weather the financial storm, large business jet order holders stood pat, having their own sources of financing to keep their orders intact. This market bifurcation witnessed a steady stream of large jets delivering briskly while small-and mid-size jets atrophied.

 

Today, the demand drivers that seeded this wave of orders have waned. Emerging markets, once a primary purveyor of long range jets given their geographic remoteness, have fallen victim to lackluster stock markets, geopolitical instability and a dive in natural resource prices. China, once the fastest growing business jet market on the planet, has seen its fleet contract as deteriorating economic conditions and a new reluctance to ostentatiousness have taken a toll.

 

Other factors resulting in less big cabin buyer interest nowadays include a relatively strong U.S. dollar, which when converted to local currencies magnifies lofty list prices which top $50-80 million and up. While one may naturally assume plunging oil prices would be a boon for fuel-thirsty large aircraft, quite the opposite is true. Some analysts have postulated that up to 1 in 5 big corporate jets sold are either directly or indirectly dependent on the health of the oil industry, which has recently seen prices fall from over $60 per barrel into the $20’s.

 

Field intelligence from brokers of used, ahem, preowned business jets is that most of their activity has been on the smaller cabin end. This is corroborated by aviation statistical firm AMSTAT, showing that large jets are now accounting for a fifth of all preowned transactions, down from a fourth.

 

When splitting new bizjet delivery statistics provided by industry association GAMA into cabin sizes, the percentage of new, large aircraft delivered has steadily declined from half of all 2013 deliveries to less than a third in 2019. It would appear that supply has finally caught up to demand.

 

The sales sag may also be presenting itself as workforce cutbacks, which were likely accelerated and in all likeliness exacerbated by virus-related impacts. Gulfstream, one of the premier makers of top-end jets, announced 699 layoffs this month on top of 446 employees let go in October. Other large jet manufacturers have mostly gone the rolling furlough route, at least for the time being.

 

Longer term, the pendulum will inevitably swing back towards an improvement in big cabin sales. There are a plethora of brand new large business jets now available or coming in the next couple of years, which tend to stimulate sales. Emerging markets and oil prices won’t be downtrodden forever, and when they do return there’ll be the added interest of flying internationally in a more germ-free environment.

 

Until then, both new and used smaller business jets will garner most of the attention for the time being, a distinction not seen in ages, which may benefit companies such as Textron Aviation’s Cessna unit and Brazil’s Embraer. But then, it seems everyone is downsizing in one way or another these days.

SMEA becomes the first cargo airline on the San Marino Registry

SMEA has become the first cargo airline to receive an AOC from the San Marino Aircraft Registry. Pictured is the airline’s A300-600R T7-ASK aircraft.

Cargo airline SMEA has become the first air cargo airline to achieve an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) from the San Marino Aircraft Registry. The airline achieved the distinction after satisfying the CAR OPS 1 requirements for the certification.

David Colindres, President of the San Marino Aircraft Registry, said: “SMEA deserves to be acclaimed not only for becoming the first air cargo airline on the San Marino Registry but also for their efforts and support with medical supplies during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The air cargo industry is entering a period where it must ensure that sensitive cargo is transported and delivered to the highest standards, meticulously and punctiliously.”

SMEA diversified its management services into cargo operations towards the end of last year, when it began operating the A300-600R T7-ASK aircraft (pictured). The airline recently completed 27 charter flights from China to Italy, including deliveries to Pisa and Bologna, transporting key medical supplies.

Waked Jayyousi, SMEA Airlines accountable manager, said the Covid-19 global pandemic has highlighted the contribution of air cargo. “We are living in times where we have realised how fundamental air cargo is for our daily lives,” said Jayyousi. “We have demonstrated to the San Marino CAA that our special cargo operations meet international standards during such a vulnerable and critical period.”

SMEA plans to fly to other EU destinations and continue its medical missions until the end of June 2020.

Textron Aviation deliveries down 44 jets, sales down $262m

Textron Aviation sales were down $262m to $872m  for the first quarter of 2020. It delivered 23 jets, down from 44 last year, and 16 turboprops, down from 44 compared with the first three months of 2019.

Segment profit was $3m  in the first quarter, down $103m from 2019. This was due to the cut in deliveries – partly caused by travel restrictions for customers – and $12 million of idle facility costs due to stopping production and furloughing employees because of Covid-19. An accident in December 2019 also led to delays with composite manufacturing.

Scott Donnelly, chairman and CEO of Textron said:

“Our team is meeting the unprecedented challenges presented by this pandemic with a commitment to the health and safety of our employees and communities while meeting customer commitments. We have taken measures to reduce cost and conserve cash, including temporary plant shutdowns and employee furloughs at many of our commercial businesses. While the effects of COVID-19 on many of our end markets has been unfavorable, Bell and Textron Systems delivered higher revenue and strong margin performance for the quarter in their military businesses.”

Textron Aviation had a $1.4 billion backlog at the end of the quarter.

Emiliano Sala: Neither pilot nor plane had the correct licensing to operate commercially

The UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has published its final report into the aircraft crash in which footballer, Emiliano Sala and the pilot, David Ibbotson, lost their lives. It found that neither Ibbotson nor the Piper Malibu, N264DB, held the correct licensing to operate on a commercial basis. It also said that Sala would have been “deeply unconscious” due to carbon monoxide poisoning at the point of impact. The report contains numerous safety recommendations concerning: the carriage of carbon monoxide (CO) detectors; additional in-service inspections of exhaust systems; and the maintenance of flight crew licensing records.

 

Crispin Orr, chief inspector of air accidents at the AAIB, said: “This was a tragic accident with fatal consequences. As we publish our final report today, our thoughts are with the families of Mr Sala and Mr Ibbotson. Today we have made important safety recommendations which, if fully implemented, would significantly reduce the risk of a recurrence.”

 

Orr continued, saying that whilst routine maintenance is vital, it cannot eliminate the risk of carbon monoxide leaks completely. Equipping aircraft with devices that provide warnings of the presence of this odourless, colourless and lethal gas, would enable pilots to take potentially lifesaving action. Therefore, the AAIB is calling for the regulators to make it mandatory for piston-engine aircraft, such as the one Piper Malibu involved in the accident, to carry an active CO warning device.

 

“The chartering of aircraft that are not licensed for commercial transport – so called ‘grey charters’ – is putting lives at risk” said Orr. “We welcome the Civil Aviation Authority’s efforts to stop this practice through their ‘Legal to Fly’ campaign and other interventions.”

 

Industry associations have expressed regret but little surprise at the focus upon illegal charter within the report. The European Business Aviation Association (EBAA), British Business & General Aviation Association (BBGA) and the Air Charter Association (ACA) have collectively said they will intensify their efforts to fight against the issue of illegal charter flights.

 

“This practice threatens passenger safety and gives legitimate providers a bad name, while undermining their financial viability.

  • We will organise a series of dedicated workshops across Europe for operators, brokers and authorities to accelerate knowledge and best-practice sharing.
  • We will roll-out new tools to empower passengers and the business aviation community to look up charter operators, access factsheets, and report questionable operations.

 

“The focus needs to shift to establishing clarity on what defines a private operation and a commercial operation. Compounding the concern, is a lack of clarity on the definition of an illegal charter, but also on who has what responsibility when operating or booking flights,” they said in a joint statement.

 

 

Piaggio Aerospace solicits buyers

Piaggio Aero Industries and its subsidiary Piaggio Aviation have launched an international call for the sale of the brand which has been in administration for the past year. The two companies, currently under Extraordinary Administration, operate under the Piaggio Aerospace brand. Following authorisation from the Italian Ministry for Economic Development, a notice, calling for expressions of interest in the company, was published in a number of Italian financial publications on Thursday 27th February.

 

Piaggio officials have expressed a preference to sell both companies to one new owner. Despite Piaggio Aero Industries and Piaggio Aviation being two different legal entities, Piaggio says the two form a unified business operating synergistically. Potential buyers for all or part of the businesses have been invited to send their expressions of interest (EOI) to the Extraordinary Commissioner, Vincenzo Nicastro, no later than April 3, 2020.

 

After assessing the quality of each proposal, the commissioner will decide whether to admit the applicants to continue in the process. Similarly, as the published announcement literally reads, “any final determination with regard to the sale shall […] be subject to the authorization of the Italian Ministry of Economic Development, after hearing the opinion of the Surveillance Committee”.

 

Nicastro said in a statement: “Just over a year since the extraordinary administration started, we have succeeded in creating a respectable order intake, which makes the company attractive for a buyer.

 

“We shall rigorously evaluate each of the offers that will reach us with the aim of selling the company in its entirety and finding a buyer who can offer a solid, long-lasting recovery and development plan. We aim at concluding the process within the current year.”

 

Piaggio currently has an orderbook of €450m but a further €450m of sales is expected to be added shortly; taking the total order to book to about €900m.

 

Potential buyers should sent an EOI in English or Italian to the Extraordinary Commissioner via email. More information for prospective buyers is available here.

Gulfstream’s ‘playroom for technicians’ feeds engineer pipeline

Gulfstream needs to make 300 to 400 gross hires of technicians a year and has no trouble reaching that target.

Gulfstream Aerospace operates training laboratories and a simulated service centre where student engineers and technicians can consolidate their skills and build confidence before moving to operational facilities.

The training centres are coupled with school and community outreach programmes and are a key means of ensuring access to a skilled workforce at a time of growing competition for skilled labour, Derek Zimmerman, Gulfstream’s President, Product Support, told Corporate Jet Investor’s Miami 2019 conference last year.

“Recruiting from an A&P [airframe and powerplants] school is extremely competitive,” said Zimmerman at the session entitled: ‘After the aftermarket – the battle for maintenance’. “It is not unusual for a major airline to show up at an A&P school and take entirety of a graduating class.”

So, Gulfstream has sought new ways to boost its pipeline of engineers and technicians. One way is to selects recruits with some technical aptitude – perhaps from an automotive or electronics background – and train them rapidly and effectively to work on business jets. “You just can’t go out these days and find a large number of already experienced technicians to add to your labour pool,” said Zimmerman.

Experience has taught Gulfstream that assigning recruits to its simulated service centre is a far more effective means of training than pairing the student with an experienced engineer in an operational facility. “Given the demand for technicians, putting an experienced person out on the [engineering facility] floor with an inexperienced person is a good way to bring that experienced person’s productivity down,” said Zimmerman. “It would also put that inexperienced person in a place where they are not as competent or as confident as we would like them to be.”

‘Work on our assets in a safe space’

Gulfstream’s solution was to invest in an on-the-job training centre with laboratories and a simulated service centre where students can practice what they have learnt in a supported environment. “This enables students to work on our assets in a safe space and to practice things repeatedly. And there is no pressure from a customer who wants their airplane back or worries about the quality of the work they are doing.”

After hearing Gulfstream’s approach to training, session chair Ford von Weise, Citi Private Bank’s global head of Aircraft Finance, said: “It sounds as though you have built a playroom for mechanics.”

Zimmerman responded: “Yes, that is essentially what it is. It allows us not to compete head-to-head with some of those big players who have a tremendous appetite for technicians.”

Gulfstream Aerospace’s other strategy is to reach out to high schools and technical colleges to contact students who may never have considered a career in business aviation. Gulfstream recognises that the students they contact may not end up working for the company but believes it is important to portray business aviation in a positive light to youngsters.

The US recruitment market has tightened considerably in the past five years, says Zimmerman. But Gulfstream does not expect any shortfall in recruitment, despite requiring another 100 to 200 technicians a year reflecting the opening of new facilities and the expansion of its fleet. “Based on retirements and people moving around the business, Gulfstream needs to make 300 to 400 gross hires [of technicians] a year. We have no trouble doing that.”

‘Gulfstream needs to make 300 to 400 gross hires a year’

Gus Faucher, chief economist with PNC Financial Services Group, underlined the competitive nature of the US recruitment market with unemployment rates reaching an historic low. “The unemployment rate is 3.5% – basically the lowest we have had in 50 years. Pretty much everyone who wants a job can find a job,” said Faucher in his keynote address. “So, if we haven’t got full employment now, we are very close to it.”

In a separate presentation, Michael Amalfitano, President and CEO of Embraer Executive Jets, highlighted the importance of designing recruitment strategies that appealed to Millennials. One-in-three of all American workers is a Millennial, and the group already forms a bigger cohort than the Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964.

“When you are thinking about workforce development and thinking about hiring engineers, the people you need to work for your business, sustainability is going to be a big part of what Millennials and your future workforce is thinking about,” said Amalfitano.

Corporate Jet Investor’s Miami 2019 conference took place at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach on November 12 and 13.

Meanwhile, Corporate Jet Investor’s London 2020 conference will take place at The Landmark on February 3rd and February 4th. Read the full conference programme here and booking details here.