Leading Pratt & Whitney's presence at Paris '99 is the engine manufacturer's new president, Louis Chênevert, who was appointed to the top position in April when former president Karl Krapek was elected president and chief operating officer of P&W's parent company, United Technologies. Chênevert joined P&W in 1997 as executive vice-president for operations, then was promoted in 1998 to executive vice-president for operations, worldwide purchasing and aftermarket business. A native of Quebec, Canada, he previously spent four years with Pratt & Whitney Canada, and 14 years at General Motors. Chênevert has built a strong reputation for his dedication to quality and process improvement and his keen interest and understanding of manufacturing processes and costs. Interview by Karen Walker

Q As new president at Pratt & Whitney, what are your priorities for the company during 1999?

A First, we need to be well positioned with the product line we have, which now stretches across everything from the small turbines for the regional market to the large commercial engine business.

We have also repositioned the company, with the PW6000, to re-enter the narrowbody market.

We need to ensure we have the right kind of coverage in all key segments and continue to strengthen our position in those segments where we have not been as prominent as we should have been in recent years.

Certainly, we will put a lot of time and energy into the narrowbody market. Those are our current challenges.

Q Your predecessor, Karl Krapek, has achieved dramatic improvements in P&W's productivity, quality control and costs over the past seven years. Do you believe there is still more to be done?

A I expect we will do well financially because we have prepared ourselves with the restructuring. It pays to be proactive.

We all know that this is a cyclical industry and when the downturn comes it will be those companies that are well prepared that will be in the best position.

We know that sales will be a little softer this year because of the Asia crisis.

But our restructuring and early agreement with our union means that we have positioned the company and are ahead of the game.

Q Has the restructuring had an effect on employee morale?

A Actually, employees are very much enthused. With 30,000 employees, there are always going to be issues of morale, but I have seen a real uptrend in morale over the past few years as we have repositioned the company. It is a morale booster for the workforce to see the company so well positioned on so many programmes.

On military alone, we are on the Lockheed Martin Boeing F-22 and on both Joint Strike Fighter contenders.

It is perhaps most telling that a recent attempt to begin a union in our Florida facility was rejected 8:1 by employees.

Our people understand better today than they did five or 10 years ago that the ultimate boss is the customer and they are very focused on making sure that they have an effect on customer value.

Q What is P&W's position on the ultra-long-range Boeing 777X? Would you demand exclusivity on this airframe?

A First, I must make it very clear that we are working closely with Boeing on this. I understand that they are working with all of the engine manufacturers.

But we have made an offer that starts in the 115,000lb thrust range, so we believe we start from a very good foundation. Nobody else has that thrust class certificated at this time. The PW4000 is the key for us in this programme.

We need to make sure as we finalise our discussions with Boeing that the business case exists to support the investment we will have to make and that is volume related.

We are working with Boeing to see what the opportunities may be for enhancing volume.

There is no room for three engine manufacturers, but there may be room for two.

I don't want to take the line of insisting on exclusivity, but as leader of this company I owe it to my people to make an economically sound decision. This is a difficult business case because there is not a lot of volume.

Q How do you intend to keep up P&W's momentum to re-enter the narrowbody market?

A We are very pleased with how the PW6000 is developing. It was the first time we had launched a product without an airframe customer, but a few weeks ago we had a formal launch with the Airbus A318.

We are pleased to see that we have secured good customers and that there is a lot of interest in that aircraft. I am sure there will be decent volume for the PW6000, which creates a platform from which to launch the geared turbofan [PW8000].

The first engine core will run in July and from then on we will have a key asset for the larger engine.We are now looking at a potential geared turbofan in the 50,000-60,000lb thrust range and next year we will have a gearbox, produced by Fiat, that will be submitted for testing.

The outlook is very promising. The technology to bring the geared turbofan product to life is now much closer.

Q Are you concerned about crowding in the narrowbody market, with all the main engine manufacturers now chasing this segment?

A We think we have positioned ourselves well to re-enter this market with brand new technology. Reception from the airlines has been excellent.

The key is technology and cost competitiveness - that's being directed by the end customer - and we have made a leap with our product.

You read a lot about new generation engines with fewer parts and faster leap into the market.

Our 6000 will run next month - that's just 10 months after launch and it has all of the technology that people talk about. Others might talk about what they will offer; we have it.

Q P&W now has a lot of new products in development. What pressures will this put on your resources?

A It demands a lot of discipline to keep them all on track technologically and financially. But our flight module centre allows us to reduce flight cycle time hours, which is why our lead time is reduced by 50% and we are also seeing a 9% reduction in costs.

We are in a much stronger position now to be able to do more. We are very comfortable that we have the end game in place. Yes, it's a challenge.

But the key is to discover issues early on and ensure that entry into service is absolutely flawless.

Q Do you believe you share a similar management style with your predecessor? What sort of relationship do you expect to build with International Aero Engines' new boss, Mike Terrett?

A Karl [Krapek] and I share many of the same management practices. We come from similar backgrounds in the automotive industry, then aerospace.

We are both very much customer focused. The relation-ship with the customer is critical and the ability to delight the customer is what gets you long-term business. Holding people accountable is my style of leadership.

We have been in a long-term relationship with IAE which has been very successful for all partners.

We have been a strong supporter of the V2500 because it has significant volume and is a good engine for us. We are in discussion with the partners for a thrust class upgrade for that engine.

We will continue to be supportive of the V2500 and I know that Mike feels comfortable with that support.

Source: Flight Daily News