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Despite airlines in a slump GE perceives India as an exciting market

Hyderabad. Indian carriers have been hit by high fuel prices, interest costs, aggressive price wars and in some cases ill-timed expansion plans, which have pushed most into heavy losses. But, a rapidly expanding middle class which prefers to fly rather than travel on road and rail routes is expected to generate strong demand for new aircraft over the next several years.

“While the airline industry is in a bad health, GE perceives India as an exciting market and we remain committed to it. We are looking forward to expand our growth and penetration in the market. Ours is a two fold strategy —- grow ourselves and help customers to make more money. We also aim at helping airlines to make operations more reliable, efficient and cost effective. Currently majority of the firm’s revenues from India come from the civil sector with good growth expected from the defence segment in future. The defence business is presently more at the orders stage, while the civil business is at the delivery stage. We expect this proportion to change as defence deliveries start kicking in,” said Nalin Jain, President, GE Aviation, India in an exclusive interview to India Strategic.

Air India’s 27 Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft will be powered by GE’s GEnx engines. Based on the proven GE90 architecture, the GEnx engine will offer up to 15 percent improved fuel efficiency, which translates to up to 15 percent less CO2. GE plans to set up an engine maintenance plant for its GEnx and the GE90 engines. The engine facility will be located at Nagpur in Maharashtra, near Boeing’s planned airframe maintenance, repair and overhaul plant, and will start operations in 2013-14.

“The engine’s innovative low emission combustor dramatically reduces gases as much as 55 percent below today’s regulatory limits and other regulated gases as much as 90 percent. The GEnx is also the quietest engine GE has produced due to the large, more efficient fan blades that operate at slower tip speed, resulting in about 30 percent lower noise levels. Finally, the GEnx is the world’s only jet engine with both a front fan case and fan blades made of carbon fiber composites. Operators have responded well to the GEnx engine with about 1,300 GEnx engines ordered for 46 customers around the world,” informed Jain.

He added that the company aims to deliver 300 engines to Indian carriers in four to five years, with 60 to 80 of those expected to be handed over in 2012. The company delivered a similar number of engines to Indian carriers last year.

Air India has also signed a GE Branded Services Agreement under which GE Aviation will provide technical support as Air India offers maintenance, repair and overhaul services for GEnx-1B engine and further advances its plans to become a global MRO service provider. Air India will be licensed to perform maintenance and overhaul work on the GEnx-1B engine and provide other GEnx customers with MRO services. Air India is also the launch customer for the GEnx TRUEngines program, which means the carrier will follow GE-issued engine manuals, services bulletins and other maintenance recommendations.

Jain further added, ”it appears to us that one of the ways in which India could improve air traffic management is to seek new technology that will enable India to handle the expected rise in air travellers. If we don’t address the ageing air traffic management system, India could face some challenges. The existing air traffic management system is safe but from an efficiency standpoint, there is room for improvement. India is currently making the historic shift from a ground-based navigation system to a satellite-based operation. The aviation industry is growing fast, which creates many logistical challenges. A small delay can throw off a schedule and create a series of problems for both the airlines and the travellers.”

“Think of aircraft like human bodies. Advances in healthcare have helped us to spot and learn from illnesses that slow us down. Now imagine what this kind of thinking could do for the “health” of an aircraft. With GE’s Integrated Vehicle Health Management (IVHM), operators can detect issues on their planes wherever they fly in the world, analyze the data, suggest a solution and take proactive action to prevent any issue. And with Engine Diagnostics, airlines can also monitor engines through takeoff and cruise records, allowing them to analyze and learn from that data. The result? Fewer delays, fewer missed connections and less money spent on maintenance (or visits to the doctor),” he explained.

GE Aviation Systems ’Integrated Vehicle Health Management(IVHM) solution acts as a virtual proactive maintenance team, determining the status of the aircraft and its sub systems to supply realtime, actionable information to help aircraft operators predict failures before they occur and provide a quick and accurate “whole plane” view of health. It is an end-to end solution for collecting, analyzing and producing actionable information. With IVHM, you can detect a problem and see exactly where it has occurred in an easily accessible, accurate and concise manner. GE’s advanced prognostics will help you anticipate problems before they occur, preventing delays and other unplanned events–which may lead to unscheduled maintenance.

It uses an artificial lintelligence based technology that can learn from the data, enabling increased fault detection and prognostics. The recent addition of artificial intelligence based detection technology to GE’s Health & Usage Monitoring Systems(HUMS)through a secure web service has brought one of the most significant improvements in rotorcraft safety management–halving the number of undetected faults compared to existing systems.

© India Strategic