Turbomeca has had some notable achievements this year. These included beating Pratt & Whitney Canada in winning a contract to power new Airbus Helicopters H135s for the Norwegian Air Ambulance (Norsk Luftambulanse AS) with its new Arrius 2B2 Plus and delivering the first production Arrius 2R for Bell Helicopter's 505 JetRanger X. We posed three questions to the engine maker's Arrius/Arriel program manager, Jean-François Sauer, a 13-year veteran of Turbomeca.
Why is the Norwegian Air Ambulance’s selection of the Arrius 2B2 Plus significant?
This operator has been a Pratt & Whitney Canada customer [for engines on its 13 EC135s]. We had never equipped that aircraft for them. With their order for three H135s, they are renewing their fleet and they are doing it with our engine. Our contract is for six engines for those three aircraft, with options covering 14 more aircraft.
Norwegian Air Ambulance tells us they selected Turbomeca for three reasons.
First, the Arrius 2B2 Plus gives them the option of flying with or without inlet barrier filters, which gives them the choice of removing 50 to 60 kg (110 to 132 lb) of weight from an aircraft to get additional payload or range. [P&WC] offered only inlet barrier filters.
Second, selecting the Arrius 2B2 Plus allowed us to offer a combined support contract covering their new H135s and their H145s, which are powered by our Arriel engine.
The third is Turbomeca's clearly improved customer support. This is not only me saying this. Norwegian Air Ambulance spoke with other major European air ambulance operators who are our customers, who clearly indicated the major improvements they have seen in Turbomeca's customer support in the last three years or so.
What do you think has enabled that customer support improvement?
We have had to change the way we perceived our customers. For a very long time, we were an engineering company focused on manufacturing the most beautiful technical product we could and we probably forgot a bit about the fact that someone was operating it. In recent years, we said we are going to put customers back into the core values of our company.
That began by listening to customers, through customer councils and symposiums, communicating the product improvements we had in mind and asking the customers if they thought those were the right things to do. In many cases, we learned that we just improving things because we thought they were important but the customer would say, "No, please, work better on coking issues or fuel leakage issues," or maybe, "Try to reduce my maintenance workload."
There are many ways to get rid of fuel leakage, for instance. You can seal better or you can drain better. And in many cases, the customers said, "Please, just drain better, because I don't want to have a complex engine. I want to have something which I understand and which is simple."
Of course, it meant a lot of changes within the company, focusing more on support services as well and providing more things in our offers, like power by the hour and our BOOST [or Bank Of Online Services And Technologies] system, whose services customers suggested.
We have not yet achieved our goal, but we are getting there as steady as we can. We have even had some customers telling us that because of the support improvement, they are reconsidering a Turbomeca engine even if they have Pratt & Whitney equipment.
Tell us about the work with Bell in powering the 505?
This is definitely huge for us. It's the first time we are working with Bell Helicopter. We are on track to achieve EASA and Transport Canada certification of the Arrius 2R for the JetRanger X by the end of the year, and FAA certification will follow in early 2016. That is the certification date we have had from day one.
Whenever we have a milestone with Bell, they are very pleased because we are always on track or in advance [of the schedule]. We are on a daily basis communicating with them, reacting very quickly and providing local support as well. We have to provide 15 engines by the end of the year and we are on track to do that as well. We will be reaching 200 engines a year by 2018.