Claude Alber is vice-president and managing director, Europe, Middle East and Africa, for US-headquartered aerospace technology manufacturer Rockwell Collins.

He is a key member of the company's international business organisation, which was created in 2008 to further increase its focus on commercial and government customers outside the USA. In this role, Alber is specifically responsible for developing the company's business and overseeing all of its operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Claude Alber

 © Rockwell Collins

Prior to this appointment Alber was senior director for commercial systems, leading Rockwell Collins's programmes for Airbus and other international aircraft manufacturers.

Alber joined Rockwell Collins in 1996, holding several management positions before being named director, integrated systems, European programmes for government systems in 2005. In this role, Alber contributed to the growth of Rockwell Collins's military business in Europe.

From 1986 to 1995, Alber held several systems engineer and management positions at Sagem, EADS and Sofreavia Services.

He holds a master of science degree from SUPAERO in Toulouse, France - now the Institut Supérieur de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace (ISAE).

How important is the Middle East for Rockwell Collins over the next year or so?

There are very strong opportunities in the Middle East - it's a fast-growing region, and Rockwell Collins is pursuing an export strategy. We're also looking to increase local investment in the region. So far, we've been very successful in developing a solid footprint with both airlines and business jet operators.

Most of the airlines in the region have a relationship with Rockwell Collins, including the biggest and low-cost carriers. There is also, of course, a lot of embedded content for us, as these companies are Airbus and Boeing customers.

In business jets, we are doing well in both avionics and cabin systems, especially with aircraft like the Bombardier Challenger series. The VIP versions of both Airbus and Boeing aircraft are also very successful in the Middle East, and so we have good customer relationships there.

A third strength for us is on military aircraft. Our tactical communications equipment features on more than 180 platforms worldwide, and that includes most of the fixed wing and helicopter platforms operating in the region. This is through both sales directly to end-users and through US government sales.

Is it fair then to describe the Middle East as a key market for Rockwell Collins?

Absolutely. The Middle East is forecast to be the fastest-growing region globally for civil air traffic, even more than Asia. We will grow as Middle East airlines acquire new aircraft.

It's also true that the corporate aircraft fleet in [the] Middle East is above average in terms of corporate airliners and long-range aircraft, and this is a market segment we are very with.

The Middle East is particularly buoyant for business jets. What customer demands are characterising the region?

There is a growing demand for information management services, and this is a strong trend in the Middle East. The deal we signed with [UK-headquartered communications firm] Inmarsat in August to be the exclusive developer and supplier of Ka broadband satcom terminals for Inmarsat's Global Xpress services is significant. By the end of the year we will be able to announce a breakthrough in airborne communications and connectivity capability, and our customers in the Middle East are particularly interested in this. The GX services will be available from mid-2013, following the launch of the first Inmarsat-5 satellite. Global service should be available in 2014.

Another big development for us is our Ascend flight information service, which is now available fully integrated with our Pro Line Fusion avionics package for turboprops and light jets. We have nine customers already - and a lot more to come - in the Middle East.

The idea of integrating trip support, operations and maintenance support has been enthusiastically received in the region. The same is true in Europe, where our Ascend services business has been growing faster than in the US.

With Ascend, Pro Line Fusion-equipped aircraft stay connected to a global network that allows both individual owners and company flight departments to manage their aircraft operations smoothly and effectively. This hasn't been available before on light jets. This latest configuration of Pro Line Fusion includes the first touch-control primary flight displays, integrated head-up synthetic vision and autonomous backup flight control modes. We can also include our MultiScan weather threat detection.

But the key to understanding Ascend is to realise that it's more about the data than about the device.

Looking forward over the coming 12 months, what is on the horizon for Rockwell Collins?

The huge Middle East order backlog at Airbus and Boeing, particularly for long-haul aircraft, is making this an interesting time for us. Customers are asking for new features all the time, especially for higher bandwidth. There's high demand for information management and connectivity solutions.

Generally in airliners, the recovery we're seeing looks set to continue, and aftermarket business will follow.

With business jets recovery has of course been slower, but we see this accelerating in 2012.

On the military side, the past year has seen weaker spending after years of strong over-spend, and US spending will decline. However, our international defence business is expected to grow. The Middle East, India, Brazil and Turkey are our focus, as they are our biggest opportunities.

What is Rockwell Collins's presence on the ground in the Middle East?

We've extended our regional headquarters in Dubai and opened an office in Abu Dhabi, and we're hiring, bringing in engineering and support staff. We've gone recently from having 15 employees in the region to around 250, including field support people.

Source: Flight Daily News