Leading systems supplier Eaton Aerospace (Booth 3090) is looking to corporate aviation, specifically very light jets (VLJ), to provide business growth at a time of flat earnings from the military and air transport sectors. “We see the VLJs as a growth generator for our total business,” says sales and marketing vice-president Einar Johnson. “A significant proportion of our engineering resources and R&D investment is being focused in that segment.”
A long-time player in the corporate aviation market, Eaton has supplied most of the big names over the years. A typical recent program is its integrated hydraulic fluid power-generation system for the Raytheon Hawker Horizon. “We already had the technology from military and large commercial applications,” says Johnson. “But we had to resize it and meet the particular requirements of business aviation, and that was a unique challenge.”
Up to now, business jet work has made a small contribution to the bottom line compared with Eaton’s military and commercial operations. But the emergence of the VLJs is giving this part of the company a chance to shine, according to Johnson. “We see the VLJs, with their potential for high unit production, being a very significant factor in growing the overall business of Eaton Aerospace.”
The company has just won the first reward for its focus on business aviation’s pocket rockets in the form of a package of work on the Embraer Very Light Jet that is expected to be worth at least $70 million over the life of the program. “We also believe there are unique opportunities for aftermarket support,” says Johnson. “With its large numbers of widely dispersed operators and requirement for a rapid logistical response, this market is going to call for some new ways of doing things.”
At Eaton this will mean drawing on its pioneering experience of performance-based logistics (PBL) in connection with military programs. Under PBL, suppliers are equipped and given incentives to go on improving system supportability and reducing ownership cost throughout the life of a program. Earlier this year Eaton was selected to help apply PBL to the
Lockheed Martin F-35 combat aircraft. “This has given us an immense amount of experience and capability that we can now use with the VLJs,” says Johnson.
In a few years Eaton could be applying PBL to the Embraer VLJ’s hydraulic power package, flap system, landing-gear control hydraulics, and assorted cockpit controls. How did Eaton go about meeting Embraer’s cost, weight and reliability targets for these systems?
“It started fundamentally with the way we decided to do things,” explains Johnson. “Take the hydraulics – it’s a zonal system that’s complete and localized at the power-generation point, where you need it, instead of having pumps and conveyance throughout the aircraft.”
The flap system is fly-by-wire, with all the advantages of weight, cost and reliability associated with that approach. “We think it’s a first for this part of the industry,” Johnson comments. “We had the technology already for large commercial and military programs. But it had never before been sized and optimized for an application like the VLJ – that’s the innovation.”
Eaton is also planning to bid on Embraer’s Light Jet, offering a similar package of systems: “We’re looking at common or very similar solutions for both VLJ and LJ, aiming to achieve cost and support benefits. This is all a reflection of the close relationship we have developed with Embraer, which also manifests itself in an integrated product team embedded at the manufacturer’s plant.”
The company has some business on other VLJ programs, Johnson says, and is talking to would-be new entrants. “It’s such a large market, with interest already being expressed in regions like Asia and eastern Europe, that I think there’s still room for new entrants addressing specific niches and regions.”
As well as Embraer and Raytheon, Eaton customers include Bombardier, Cessna, Gulfstream and Pilatus. “Our ability to meet their needs is growing constantly as our portfolio of products expands through acquisitions and other means,” Johnson comments. New capabilities on offer following moves such as the recent acquisition of PerkinElmer’s aerospace division and Cobham’s fluid and air division include fuel and environmental control subsystems, engine build-up, landing-gear dressing, and primary and secondary flight control systems.
Looking 10 years down the line, Johnson expects Eaton to be supplying its customers with products based on two emerging technologies: zonal hydraulics, as implemented on the Raytheon Hawker Horizon, and hybrid electrical-hydraulic systems. “We work closely with the OEMs and try to align our investments in R&D with theirs,” he says. “These are two of the areas getting a lot of attention now.”
Johnson regards hybrid electrical-hydraulic systems as a stepping stone to the all-electric aircraft of the future. “Getting to that point is going to be a rocky road,” he predicts. “We see a time during which there will be a need for a hybrid approach, and we are working in various partnerships on developments to meet that requirement.”
Johnson also foresees a transformation in support services, driven by the demands of performance-based logistics and enabled by prognostic health management technology. “It’s all about developing the sensors and software needed to help operators to predict failures and plan scheduled maintenance efficiently.”
Ultimately, Johnson believes, PBL and PHM will lead system suppliers like Eaton to offer operators arrangements similar to the power-by-the-hour deals now common among powerplant manufacturers. “Aircraft operators will pay industry to take care of system serviceability, rewarding the supplier for the fact that the aircraft is in the air rather than the maintenance bay,” he declares. “Industry in turn will go even further down the road of designing and developing products that will last longer and be cheaper to maintain.”
Source: Flight Daily News