David Joyce, president and chief executive of GE Aviation, sees a silver lining to the economic overcast that has settled in over the commercial aviation industry for the past two years.

"We're past the trough," Joyce tells Flight Daily News. "Here in Aviation, we're feeling in the second half of this year an uptick. We're cautiously optimistic on a recovery as we're seeing traffic coming back and utilisation of our equipment rising. We're seeing that in our [maintenance, repair and overhaul] network and in our spares."

And rather than attributing the upswing completely to the natural the tendency of the market to rebound on its own, Joyce gives credit to the industry itself. "I think that we've managed this cycle as an industry pretty well. If you take a look at [commercial aircraft] production and deliveries over the past three years, you don't see a big decline," he adds. "Aircraft and iPods didn't take a hit."

Joyce says: "It's a clear indication of the learning that occurred after 9/11. I'm a real proponent that this industry did a very professional job of managing itself."

Proper management meant continued innovation despite the prevailing winds. "Because this is an incredibly capital intensive industry, you have to bring new products to market every 10 years. It's a challenge this industry has lived with for generations. The new product cycle doesn't pay attention to the environment for any given year. You have to invest for the future with the right technologies and right engines going forward."

Because of those innovations, Joyce says the industry "on the other side of the last two years" is starting to see the capital investments needed to be ready for the new products in the latter half of this decade. "The product cycle is at a point where people are investing in terms of the engines and the airplanes," he says. "The investment cycle is ongoing as we speak."

In GE's case, the company launched its eCore programme two years ago at Farnborough. This uses a combination of advanced combustor, blade and materials technology to boost thermal and propulsive efficiency for next generation single-aisle aircraft (Leap X engine), next-generation regional jets (NG34) and business jets (TechX engine) and business jets (TechX engine) while decreasing the environmental impacts and maintaining heritage on-wing reliability.

"It fits right into the discussion," Joyce says. "Anyone who thinks about these cores thinks about the regulatory and social responsibility requirements we're all working toward, including carbon footprint, NOx and noise." Longer term, GE is investigating open rotor technologies based on the Leap X core experience for clean-sheet aircraft design post-2025.

"We at GE have been very good at innovation in times of crisis," Joyce continues. "Our innovations continued in 2008 and 2009, allowing us to bring the right engine to market at the right time. That's what we'll get in 2015 and thereafter with ducted and open rotor Leap X technologies. We continue the course of innovation at the right time."

The first Leap X engine, the Leap X1C, will power the Comac C919 when it enters service in 2016. The first TechX engine could enter service before that on an as yet unannounced business jet application.

GE as of 2010 has an installed base of 23,000 engines, almost 40% of which have not had their first shop visit, says Joyce. By 2015, the installed base will be 30,000, with production rates are increasing over the next few years to keep pace with widebody and narrowbody orders. The target production rate for 2012 is for 2,300 commercial and 900 military engines, including the T700, F110, F414/404 engines, says Joyce.

The company continues to ready its F136, the proposed alternate engine to the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, with 75% of the development work now complete. "We'll have run six engines by year's end, with the third engine completing its testing now," says Joyce. "All will run by year's end and the engine will be put in an aircraft by the latter half of 2011."

"We hope we can continue to prevail" in the effort to gain approval to begin producing the engines," says Joyce. "We're looking for the opportunity to compete. We moved to Cincinnati in 1947 to build fighter engines. Every time the US has gone into conflict and the war fighter has needed our support, we've been there. GE has been there. Want the opportunity to do that again. I feel more bullish about the argument for competition."

GE is also making notable moves in the non-engine arenas, with recent major systems acquisitions in part to help support a broad work package on the Comac C919. "Our intent [on the C919] is to work with Comac and Avic to create the next generation of systems and avionics," says Joyce. "That's why we purchased Smiths. There's a nice trajectory for growth. We bought [RNP procedure developers] Naverus to understand more about green approaches. We bought BMB fuel consulting services to understand how avionics affects the efficiency of aircraft. We're very bullish on systems going forward."

Those investments appear to be paying off. On 12 July, Comac announced that the GE Aviation/AVIC joint venture had been selected to provide the avionics core processing system, display system and on-board maintenance system for the C919.

In the longer term, GE is working to develop aircraft that are "hyper-connected" in terms of health monitoring and intelligent cockpits, says Joyce. "Today you can get more apps on iPod than an aircraft can get in the air. There is a revolution that is going to occur."

Source: Flight Daily News