Profile GE Aviation Systems

GE Aviation Systems, the former Smiths Aerospace, arrived at the 2007 Paris air show in a blaze of new branding to mark its new start.

John Ferrie, the former Smiths Aerospace president now himself rebranded as president of systems for GE Aviation, says the change of name and brand was both necessary and beneficial to the business after GE bought Smiths in a $4.8 billion deal in May. "It is important that the technology and positions the Smiths brand represented are still there. But the GE brand is even stronger and will help us," he says, adding: "GE has a great depth and breadth of technology and access to markets - I can see nothing but good as we go forward."

Joining GE will leave the systems business well placed for the next generation of single-aisle aircraft, when Airbus and Boeing are set to demand more integrated products. "We have all the building blocks of systems - now we have the ability to add the engine."

John Ferrie

There has undoubtedly been a huge shift of outlook for the business since becoming part of a giant company. "Even the aviation segment of GE is bigger than the whole of Smiths," Ferrie points out. But he is making sure GE's newest addition maintains independence of a sort: "We're being careful not to let the Smiths business be overwhelmed by the GE business. We're keeping the systems business very much as it was and making the changes in the back office. We are not disturbing the customer-facing, value-added part," Ferrie says.

Becoming part of GE is an exciting opportunity, but the systems division has no plans to make major changes to its procurement, R&D or production policies. The systems business will take advantage of the critical mass of its new parent in certain cases when it comes to the supply chain, or to some areas of research and development where there may be overlap. But "it works both ways - it's a two-way street to learn from each other," Ferrie says.

Although opportunities to avoid duplication will be pursued when they make sense, Ferrie is cautious: "GE is like an Aladdin's cave of technology - we have to watch we don't spend all our time in the treasure trove and forget we have customers to deliver to." But Ferrie sees opportunities for former Smiths technologies in the wider GE business - for example land systems.

Ownership by GE will not open up entirely new markets for the former Smiths business, Ferrie says. But the engine manufacturer's unique relationship with end users may mean it is better placed to take advantage of retrofit or support package opportunities as it continues to grow.

Source: Flight International