Bob Johnson, president and chief executive of Honeywell (Hall 2, J8), says his company definitely does not have a "For Sale" sign up at Le Bourget.

Two years ago, the proposed GE/Honeywell merger overshadowed his trip to Paris. Speculation was rife as to whether the European Commission would allow General Electric's (GE) proposed $43 billion takeover of Honeywell. In the end, the EC's Mario Monti said "Non". But could it all happen again?

"Definitely not," says Johnson. "We have no plans to be acquired. We learned a lot about Honeywell by going through the merger process and we have a much stronger company as a result.

"We looked at GE and saw that they had taken Six-Sigma to a higher level and we also learned more about their systems approach. We've spent the last couple of years benefiting from all the work we had to do in the run-up to the merger.

"I don't think that we will see any more large-scale mergers in the aerospace industry, but we will see some consolidation of smaller companies," Johnson adds.


Johnson is upbeat at Le Bourget and says he has good reason to be. "Our win rate is well over 80% - we have won $43 billion worth of business over the last 48 months. We will also be announcing wins worth about $1 billion at the airshow and we have more than $2.2 billion worth of equipment on the new Airbus A380. So we are feeling pretty good."

"We are seeing some early signs in the business jet and commercial markets that the after-market business is picking up and we have also seen some companies adding flights back on to their schedules. We are optimistic that we are seeing the early signs of an economic recovery."

Johnson predicts a turnaround for the aerospace industry in 2004, with OEM deliveries getting better in 2005.

He adds: "When you're in one of these down-cycles you have to remember that it will get better.

"I look at these economic cycles as opportunities. I think the notion of turning an aircraft into a communications centre is now more viable and the OEMs see the benefit too. We are also working on new technology that offers virtual crack and wiring inspection on aircraft.

"Our runway alert and avoidance system will also be important and the ability to know the status of components on an aircraft will also allow airlines to own less inventory and reduce their maintenance."

Honeywell's rigorous adoption of Six-Sigma and best practice is paying dividends.

"At a press conference last month we had the new Bombardier aircraft fly in and the chief pilot commented that they had never had a better, smoother, more seamless introduction of a new product in the service," says Johnson.

"Our new Primus Epic system is adding wonderful value to the Gulfstream aircraft and we are helping to differentiate our customer's products by the quality of the technology we have created and invented in partnership with them"


Johnson also sees a positive outlook for air traffic in general. "As GDP grows so will air travel," he says. "I foresee strong economic growth in both Asia and Latin America, and while Europe is a little way behind it will recover in time.

"The major shift toward low-cost carriers benefits us very well, because we have almost a complete market share of their after-market work. They create demand from multiple sources and are helping to drive more people back into aircraft.

"In the long run, there are huge populations in developing areas of the globe that will eventually have income levels that are sufficient to let them start travelling.

"Air travel in China, for example, had been growing at a rate of 8-9% a year, before the impact of SARS, and there are more than one billion people in India, 850 million in Africa and over 400 million in Russia and eastern Europe - all areas with limited air traffic today, but with great potential in the long run to generate growth for air travel."

Source: Flight Daily News