Palash Roy Chowdhury, Managing Director - India, Pratt & Whitney (with inputs from Amit Pathak, General Manager, Customer Training, Pratt & Whitney, India) talks to Neetu Dhulia of SP’s Airbuz
SP’s AirBuz (SP’s): How do you foresee the future of India’s Aviation market?
Palash Roy Chowdhury (Chowdhury): It was just last year that the number of people traveling by air within India surpassed the number of people traveling by train, so we are at the beginning of India’s future as one of the world’s leading aviation market. India is the world’s seventh largest aviation market today and projected to become third largest by 2022. Intra-India air travel connects business centers with each other, and with secondary and tertiary markets, and will rely extensively on narrowbody aircraft that fly multiple cycles per day. In order to compete and grow, airlines have to operate reliable, dependable flights at a competitive price, and our engines help them do that.
SP’s: What is your view on the UDAN scheme?
Chowdhury: We have seen how beneficial regular air service is to a local economy. It grows jobs and opportunities, and as more people move to urban areas, it helps keep them connected to their families, and brings the world to a previously under-served or unserved region. India’s UDAN initiative is inspired. Supporting this growth is good for India.
Incentivizing air travel and air connectivity through government action is vital to the local economy, but it must eventually support itself. A key deciding factor for operators of regional flights is whether they can cover the cost of operating their schedule. Pratt & Whitney is highly focused on making engines for this market segment that meet the operators’ needs, through very efficient and durable engines. We are a leader in this market, supporting cargo, passenger and private air service.
SP’s: By when do you think the recent issues with IndiGo and GoAir will be resolved?
Chowdhury: More than 95 per cent of the fleet in India have completed retrofits and we expect 100 per cent completion in the first part of 2019. These retrofits provide significant improvements in engine reliability and time on wing.
All jet engine programmes, from the oldest programmes still flying to the very latest in technology, are never static. Over the course of its life, usually 30 years or more, changes are made to the engine to increase performance or extend its durability. We are now in that stage with the GTF; continual improvements will be made to the engine.
Separately, all engine programmes are monitored to ensure performance. In this case, Pratt & Whitney is examining the accessory gear box and we will communicate with operators should further action be required. This part of the engine powers electronic systems on board, and is not used for flying the plane.
SP’s: What are the measures taken by Pratt & Whitney to ensure its customers don’t face critical situations due to unavailability of spare engines or other operational issues with the neo engines?
Chowdhury: Pratt & Whitney more than doubled the number of engines serviced through our MRO facilities last year (compared to the year prior) and will continue to increase capacity in our shops. More MRO facilities are on-line as well, including ESA in Singapore, which inducted its first GTF engine in January 2019.
SP’s: How many Pratt & Whitney GTFs have been delivered or ordered by the Indian airlines?
Chowdhury: More than 350 Pratt & Whitney GTF-powered A320neo aircraft have been ordered by Indian airlines. Nearly 100 GTF-powered A320neo aircraft have been delivered to airline operators in India (IndiGo and GoAir) to date. The GTF engine in India has powered 650,000 flight hours; over 200,000 flights; saved 32 million gallons of fuel and avoided some 344,000 tonnes of carbon emissions to date.
SP’s: Elaborate on Pratt & Whitney’s skill development initiatives in India.
Chowdhury: As a company that is deeply embedded in India, we firmly support the ‘Make in India’ campaign that has provided significant impetus to India’s economic growth since its launch. We believe that ‘Make in India’ will only be successful if Skill India succeeds. Skill development will be a cornerstone of aviation growth. Pratt & Whitney recognizes the country’s world-class engineering and technical capabilities as well as market opportunities it offers. Keeping the talent in mind, we have undertaken the below mentioned initiatives to support Skill Development in India:
SP’s: How is Pratt & Whitney supporting the community development?
Chowdhury: Pratt & Whitney has long supported the advancement of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), with 60+ e-Learning Centers established in India since 2011. The company has funded e-Learning Centers throughout the country to help educate elementary school age children with the goal of inspiring the next generation of engineers and aviation enthusiasts. Pratt & Whitney recently inaugurated two e-learning centers in Hyderabad and Vishakhapatnam.
The e-learning centers are equipped with modern facilities, tools and technology to support both teachers and students. These resources include computers, wireless internet, digital projectors, display screens, audio systems, software, subscriptions and furniture.
SP’s: In October last year, Pratt & Whitney launched Industry Capability Enhancement program at its customer training center in Hyderabad. Please tell us about the program and its purpose?
Chowdhury: We launched this unique program with a purpose of supporting medium and small-scale enterprises serving global aerospace majors through precision manufacturing and highly specialized engineering services from India. The program was specially designed to help industry participants develop expertise on aircraft propulsion systems and identify ways to improve productivity while meeting quality goals, and plan for scalability thus ensuring more efficient, reliable and cost-effective supply base. The program curriculum was designed in consultation with the local industry and we look forward to expanding this program to benefit many more organizations going forward.
Key Benefits of Pratt & Whitney’s Industry Capability Enhancement program are:
SP’s: What are your expectations from aviation industry in 2019?
Chowdhury: We expect the aviation industry to continue its double-digit growth in 2019 based on sound underlying macroeconomic fundamentals such as growth in economy and the middle class, urban migration, low cost air travel enabled by new technologies & driven by favourable policies and continued growth in tourism.
Long term sustainability of this robust progress will depend on policy support and continued investments in low cost regional airports, MRO infrastructure, cargo and general aviation including rotorcraft, and a strong focus on safety and security. Needless to say, a world class talent development framework will be an integral element of the aviation success story.