Alain Bellemare, newly-appointed president of Pratt & Whitney Canada, has taken over the reins of the company at a difficult time for both the industry and the world economy. With stock markets in ‘meltdown' and aviation still suffering from ‘post 11 September syndrome', how does Bellemare see the future? He talked to Geoff Thomas.


Q: How is P&WC weathering the economic storm?

A: Overall we're still doing relatively well. We have been able to minimise the problem by having a wide range of products and services. We're a well-managed company and our finances are under control. Our strategy to invest in R&D is certainly paying off. In the R&D investment league table, we're first in Canadian aerospace and third in the Canadian private sector.

Q: To what extent is the introduction of new engines across different market sectors another reason for your success?

A: Certifying more than 40 new engines over the past eight years has been very important for us. We also have more than 20 aircraft applications in the pipeline so it's easy to see how important both R&D and new markets have been – and will continue to be – for us.

Q: How has your acquisition of Altair Avionics late last year affected your ability to enhance aftermarket services?

A: Altair is a leading manufacturer of advanced diagnostics systems that designs, sells and supports aircraft and engine electronic monitoring systems. It also provides internet-based data management services for the aerospace industry and this enables us to record aircraft and engine parameters in-flight. This data is compatible with P&WC's engine condition trend monitoring (ECTM) software currently being used by customers around the world but in addition, Altair's internet-based system provides the operator with the ability to track ‘exceedances', usage and performance information.

Q: Turning to new technology, how important will the PW-800 ‘geared fan' engine be for PWC?

A: It will become a vital part of our business in the future. We're working on the Advanced Turbo Fan Integrator project and we have a variety of potential launch customers – all still with flexible calendars – from the USA, China and Russia. The engine would be used to power proposed 70-90 seater RJs from Sukhoi and Ilyushin in Russia, Avic in China and Boeing. The Chinese are due to make an engine selection decision in the second half of this year.

Q: And on the military front?

A: Our proposal to power the Airbus A400-M transport aircraft for Europe is also based on the core technology of the PW-800. The PWC-180 will have 15,000shp (11,000kW) and our engine would have a very high European content, with our partners including MTU and Fiat being involved.

Q: What about business jets?

A: Our PW300/500 family of engines have been selected by Dassault for their Falcon 7X and Falcon 2000EX and we're delighted to be working with them. We're very active in this marketplace. Both Cessna and Raytheon are also using this family of engines on their aircraft. And then there's the PW600 family of general aviation turbofan engines which have 1,000-3,000lb thrust. We now have a development with Raytheon for the PW625F and this is close to its first flight, producing 2,500lb of thrust at full power. It represents a very exciting family of engines.

Q: With the PT6 celebrating its 41st anniversary, what's the future of this venerable engine?

A: It's one of our great success stories, having established an enviable reputation for reliability and durability since it was first introduced. Indeed, it has been the foundation on which we have evolved into a world leader in a wide range of power ratings. Launched in 1958 – and with its first flight in 1961 – the PT6 turboprop and turboshaft family is the world's most popular engine in its class with more than 36,000 engines delivered. The engine operates in more than 160 countries worldwide in corporate, utility, agricultural, helicopter, training and airline applications, with power ranges from 580-2000shp.

Q: What's the state of play with the PWC67C/D helicopter engines?

A: As you know, these are based on PT6 technology too and the ‘D' variant, for re-engining the Bell UH-1 for the US Marine Corps, had its first flight late last year and certification should be within a matter of weeks. The ‘C' variant for the Bell/Agusta AB139 should receive type certification this year.

Q: When do you see the world's aviation companies coming out of recession?

A: Last year we delivered around 2,000 engines, more than the year before. The industry tends to run around 12-18 months behind US economic recovery, so I predict that it will be the end of 2003 or early 2004 before we see things getting back to normal. We behave in a pragmatic way and we use our budgets to move knowledge around the company so that we can integrate information into the development of new engines and programmes. With that philosophy, I'm confident about our future success.

Source: Flight Daily News