Ashmita Sethi is the Managing Director and Country Head of Pratt & Whitney India (P&W India), a Raytheon Technologies company, based in New Delhi. Prior to joining P&W India one and half years ago, she was Director, Communications & Corporate Affairs, Boeing. Ms Sethi has also worked with Rolls-Royce as Vice President, Communications & Public Affairs South Asia.
In a candid conversation with Ajit K Thakur, Editor, Raksha Anirveda, P&W India Country Head explains about the company’s future course of action in facilitating Indian Armed Forces, Civil Aviation sector and developing India as an MRO hub. Edited excepts:
RA: Pratt & Whitney, a Raytheon Technologies company, manufactures a variety of engines including for military and civilian purposes. However, the use of civilian engine has gained more popularity over its military counterpart. Is it related to company’s policy decision over the years keeping in mind the future strategy to tap the civil aviation market as a leader? Your take?
AS: Pratt & Whitney has long focused on building a balanced portfolio of engines that power nearly all facets of aviation. Every segment we compete in, from commercial to military, to civil/utility aircraft, we are leaders in the space.
Pratt & Whitney has supported India’s aviation growth for more than seven decades. More than 1,500 engines and APUs power over 680 aircraft for 120+ operators – across commercial, military and civil/utility aviation. In fact, IndiGo and GoAir operate 185 Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fan GTFTM powered A320neos, and India was one of the first countries worldwide to adopt the GTF. The engine has now powered efficient, economic and sustainable flying for five years.
When it comes to defense, we are proud to power some key platforms for India’s armed forces, including the Boeing C-17 Globemasters that fly on our F117 engines, as well as the PT6A-powered Pilatus PC-7 MkII trainer fleet
Of course, there are other modern platforms which India is looking at, which are Pratt & Whitney powered. For example, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is looking at the Airbus C295 light transport aircraft that’s powered by our PW127G engines, while the Indian Navy is considering the Sikorsky S-76D helicopter, with our PW210S engines, for the Naval Utility Helicopter (NUH) program. The PW100 family of engines has delivered reliability and versatility in any environment, while the PW210 engine family has been instrumental in shaping a new generation of helicopters worldwide. We believe that both engines will give India’s armed forces the right capabilities for their respective platforms.
When it comes to warfighters, Boeing’s F-15EX is competing for the 114 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft campaign for the IAF. Pratt & Whitney’s F100 engines have powered the United States Air Force’s (USAF) entire operational fleet of F-15s for the past 40+ years. The latest upgraded F100-PW-229 has a fully modular architecture that ensures ease of maintenance and incorporates leading-edge technologies in materials, cooling and health management, including some advanced 5th generation technology. We are also proud of the fact that the iconic PT6A engine powers India’s indigenous NAL-SARAS MkI transport aircraft.
RA: How do you see P&W’s engine market, in competition with GE Aviation, Rolls Royce, Honeywell Aerospace and CFM International and others, worldwide in general and India in particular?
AS: We are the makers of the most advanced engines in the world – including of F119 for the F-22 fighter and F135 for the F-35, the only fifth generation aircraft. In commercial aviation, the GTF takes center-stage for us. The engine powers more than 900 aircraft for nearly 50 airlines and three aircraft families – the Airbus A320neo, Airbus A220 and Embraer E-Jets E2. This game-changing engine has delivered on its promised ability to reduce fuel burn and carbon dioxide emissions by up to 20 per cent versus previous-generation aircraft.
Closer to home, the GTF powered fleet of A320neos has crossed two million flight hours in India. It has flown more than 110 million passengers, and saved 120 million gallons of fuel in the past five years! Our customers recognize the superior fuel efficiency that these engines deliver – and are prioritizing operating their GTF-powered aircraft before any others. We have the largest footprint of any engine maker in the country, and one in every two people flying in India, fly on planes powered by Pratt & Whitney engines.
RA: P&W, one of the biggest geared turbofan (GTF) engine suppliers in the world, has multiple OEMs as customers, who in turn power fleets for airlines like IndiGo and GoAir, etc. With the change of engines in A320neo for IndiGo, what impact we may witness? Your viewpoints.
AS: We are the only engine company with geared turbofan technology in service, and that puts us years ahead of other engine makers. IndiGo is, and remains a valued long-term partner – and was one of the first GTF operators in the world. It was purely a commercial decision for a tranche of engines.
Now, if you look at commercial aviation in India, fuel efficiency and cost have always been top priorities for airlines. That’s why Indian airlines took to the GTF early, and the engine family has delivered on its promise. The GTF lets our customers not only fly further with the same fuel load, but also take more efficient flight routes, while delivering an engine dispatch reliability rate of 99.98 per cent.
As the industry ramps up recovery, the need for more efficient, sustainable and economical air travel will be more important than ever. And that’s why we will continue to advance the engine with further improvements in fuel burn and operational efficiency. With the GTF, we are just getting started, and Pratt & Whitney will be ready for what the industry needs next.
RA: Over 7,000 P&W military engines are in service with 34 armed forces worldwide. It is a world leader in the design and manufacture of next generation propulsion technology. It has a global network of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) and Military Sustainment Services (MSS) facilities focused on maintaining engine readiness for the company’s customers. Do you have any plan to have such facility in India in near term?
AS: At Pratt & Whitney, we offer a comprehensive engine repair and overhaul services and support that is backed by a global, state-of-the-art service network of owned and designated facilities.
Our customers’ operational success and mission readiness depends on reliable engine performance, predictable maintenance, planning and responsive support. Even in India, our sizeable fleet and growing suite of engine sustainment solutions support the Indian Air Force’s mission readiness.
Throughout 2020, we expanded GTF MRO network to nine facilities, and we will have 11 active GTF MRO engine centers by 2021. We announced Air India Engineering Services Limited (AIESL) as a provider of maintenance services in support of GTF operators in India in 2020. We have strong history of partnership with AIESL, and for over 20 years, AIESL has been performing overhaul services on legacy engines, such as the JT8D, JT9D, & PW4000.
For us, establishment of an aircraft engine MRO in India offers multiple benefits: it brings our engine support closer to our customers, it supports the government’s vision of developing India as a regional MRO hub, and it enables us to leverage India’s skills into our global MRO capabilities. That’s exactly why we expanded our global network to include AIESL.
RA: India has now emerged as the third largest domestic aviation market in the world. By 2024, it is expected to overtake UK to become the third largest air passenger market, which in no uncertain terms will increase the demand both for civilian carriers and aircraft engines. What is your future strategy to grab most of Indian civil aviation market?
AS: We firmly believe that the F135, PW800, PT6 and GTF engines are engines of the future. We continue design and deliver next-generation engine technologies and manufacturing breakthroughs; while constantly innovating advanced materials, aerodynamics, big data, artificial intelligence and emerging digital technologies. The GTF will continue to power the Indian airline fleets efficiently over the next few decades, delivering the advantage our customers need to grow rapidly.
Regional Aviation is another frontier that’s expanding, and we have seen recently seen airlines open up new routes rapidly. Regional connectivity serves a vital role in building economies and connecting families – and globally, Pratt & Whitney didn’t just invent the Regional Aviation market, we changed the industry and people’s lives! Our PW100 and PW150 turboprop engines power more than 3,200 regional aircraft globally. That’s nearly 90 per cent of the 30-to-90-passenger regional turboprop aircraft in operation!
We have been shaping the regional market and powering a vast majority of turboprop aircraft in India as well. Pratt & Whitney powered the first 90 passenger twin-engine Bombardier Q400s that SpiceJet operated, and our PW100 engines power more than 70 ATR and Bombardier/Viking with Alliance Air, IndiGo, SpiceJet and TruJet.
Regional operators will require cost-efficient aircraft to make connectivity affordable, and we will be there to help operators in meeting their goals.
RA: Lastly, what’s your view on Ministry of Civil Aviation’s (MoCA) policy initiatives towards civil aviation sector? Do you think there is more to catch up for the sector, please elaborate?
AS: Pratt & Whitney is aligned to the government’s ‘Make in India’ vision of a global maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) hub in country. We welcome the government’s measures and are optimistic of their positive impact. From opening up of FDI to 74 per cent and 100 per cent on case-to-case basis for defence, and tax and policy reforms in aviation, to focused efforts in growing the MRO sector to make it more inclusive and competitive – the efforts will provide a strong operational ecosystem in the near future.
Meanwhile, we continue to build on our ‘Make in India’, ‘Skill India’ and ‘Start-up India’ programs. Our Pratt & Whitney Customer Training Center in Hyderabad is undertaking significant aerospace skilling programs with state governments and universities in-country. We are encouraging Indian start-ups to create next-gen aerospace solutions as part of the RTX Innovation Challenge and we continue to grow our partnered investments in supply chain, sustainment, R&D and engineering.