Sept. 30, 2020

Business aviation engine and airframe manufacturers operating in the “virtual” COVID-19 environment have faced significant challenges in dealing with customers, managing employees and workflow and making near- and long-term strategic decisions.

To help OEMs better understand and address these issues, NBAA on Sept. 29 hosted another in a series of its informative News Hour webinars. Entitled “Manufacturers in a New Normal – A Discussion on Emerging Tech and Product Delivery”, the presentation featured four panelists representing some of business aviation’s leading new products makers, including:

  • Michael Cooper, manager of external affairs, program and project management, Leonardo
  • Nicholas Kanellias, vice president of general aviation, Pratt & Whitney Canada
  • Peter Kriegler, director of sales – U.S. and Canada, Honda Aircraft Company
  • Frank Moesta, senior vice president strategy and customers – business aviation, of Rolls-Royce.

Bethany Davis, director of flight innovation – advanced flight deck of Gulfstream Aerospace, moderated the program, while NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen made opening and closing remarks.

“When we began the year, there was enormous excitement around many of the technologies that were coming to the aviation market,” Bolen said to open the program, adding that these developments were some of the most exciting in years. “Then we had COVID-19. Putting those two things together really is the essence of today’s News Hour.”

Among the major topics discussed during the webinar were:

  • Developing new business models for product and service delivery
  • Attracting and retaining a talented workforce
  • Prioritizing investments in emerging technology

Davis asked the panelists about technological advancements and changes they see coming in the future.

Moestra highlighted enhancements Rolls-Royce is making to its Corporate Care, the group’s business jet aftermarket support service, and where he sees the program heading in the future. Corporate Care continues to focus on improving the customer experience through such things as better digital communications between aircraft engines and ground services to monitor performance and identify issues, he said.

As both an airframe and engine maker, Honda Aircraft has a unique perspective on the future and the technology changes that are on the horizon, Davis pointed out. She asked how Honda prioritizes investments between its emerging technologies.

Kriegler said the company works to balance how advancements in one area, say engines, will affect developments in airframes. “You really need to innovate to put those all together for an overall better result,” he said.

Discussion also focused on how business aviation companies can compete with big tech companies to find and retain quality employees. Cooper said that offering competitive salaries and benefits is just part of the equation, adding that ultimately it boils down to, “the value proposition of culture,” and creating opportunities for employees to grow and advance from within the organization.

Yet, another hot topic of discussion was how the virtual workplace is impacting research and development. “The challenge in this industry is that a lot of the business is done face to face,” said Kanellias, adding that business aviation has had to adapt and change to continue to do business amid the restrictions brought on by the pandemic.