Pierre Fabre has been at the helm of CFM since taking over from Gérard Laviec last summer. It has been something of a baptism of fire as one of the deepest aviation recessions in living memory has battered the industry – but Fabre remains upbeat about future prospects. He talks to Geoff Thomas.
Q: When do you think the industry will see an upturn, and have we yet seen the worst?
A: The recession in the industry was already well-established when ‘9/11' accelerated the problems.
Nobody really knows when things will get better but we're not forecasting any upturn generally in the industry between now and 2004. In a competitive market, two to four years of low activity is tough and it will take time before we see full recovery. But although our initial projections for 2003 were relatively pessimistic, we've now revised these upwards slightly, although I wouldn't want to put a firm figure on that just yet.
Q: How's your order book looking?
A: Actually, it's doing very well. Nearly 60% of all engines sold this year in the 100+ passenger marketplace have been CFM 56s and we have a total, including military and spare engines, of 505 engines on order.
This year we will deliver around 750 engines, which is around 30% down on last year. Even where we're in competition with other engine-makers on a particular airframe, like the Airbus A320, we're doing extremely well, with 77% of customers choosing our engines.
Q: As a one-product company, where do you see yourselves in 10-15 years' time?
A: First of all, although we do only have the CFM 56, it's one of the most successful engines of all time and we're focused on continuing to develop the engine into the future.
There's no activity on a new platform – we are concentrating on utilising new technology to make the engines even better by reducing noise and emissions and enhancing durability.
For instance, our TECH56 programme is developing and maturing technology that will define the state of the art for decades.
Focusing on simpler designs, better efficiency, lower overall cost of ownership and reduced environmental impact, CFM is looking at each major component to find ways to make the best products in the industry even better.
Q: How important is service and maintenance to CFM?
A: By adding service onto the other end of the ordering/buying process, CFM is able to look after its customers far better – and remember that we have more than 13,000 engines flying throughout the world.
In 10-15 years, I anticipate that we will have 16,000 or even 20,000 -56s flying. The only thing I'm totally certain about is that CFM will be there or thereabouts.
Maybe we'll be using new or different architecture, but it'll still be recognisably CFM.
Q: Are you looking to develop any further markets in particular?
A: Like the rest of the Far East and the Pacific Rim countries, China and India appear to be recovering faster than the rest of the world, probably because they moved into recession in the aviation and airline industries earlier than the USA and Europe.
In the longer term, we have good prospects in both countries. For instance we now have more than 500 of our engines flying in China and there will be more in the not too distant future.
Q: Anything specific?
A: We're confident that Indian Airlines will select our engines for their Airbus A320s, but we still have some work to do on the contract and we also have prospects in Egypt which we may also be able to announce at the show. It all depends on contracts and decision dates.
Q: Overall then, you're reasonably bullish about future prospects?
A: Yes, indeed I am. We're still forecasting delivery of 650-750 engines for next year and although the future will undoubtedly be tough, CFM is better placed than most of the big players in the industry and in overall terms I'm confident.
If we hadn't had the terrorism problem, this year would probably have been our best year ever… and it's my opinion that the world difficulties have only postponed that situation for a couple of years.
Source: Flight Daily News