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City links the key to growth in Africa

Posted 28 July 2017 · Add Comment

Pratt & Whitney Canada is gearing up for a major effort, both to enhance fleet support services for its existing and future customers throughout Africa, and to attract new users to its range of turboprop, turboshaft and turbofan engines. Geoff Thomas reports.

Like other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) involved in commercial airframes and engines, P&WC is seeing considerable business growth in Africa.
This increased activity covers all areas of commercial aviation, including passenger and freight transportation, humanitarian aid support flights, business aviation and agricultural services.
Ismael Rhissa Zakary, who is originally from Niger, heads up the company’s business development and strategy. He explained why he is currently concentrating on Africa as a major area for growth.
In many areas of the continent, he said, road and rail transportation is relatively undeveloped and this leaves a gap to be filled by aviation. The industry is meeting that challenge in many and varied ways by reacting to Africa’s vast geography and diverse terrain, both of which mean that affordable, safe air transportation is vital in support of – and to help enable – future economic growth
He explained: “Our focus is on leading a dedicated Africa-based team in deploying our strategy. In order to unlock Africa’s aerospace potential, local stakeholders will need a lot of support, especially from those who build the aircraft and their engines.
“OEMs like P&WC have a major role to play by adapting their approach to the unique details of the African market. Some aspects and requirements are specific to Africa while others are not and the challenge is in identifying what our operators really need in order to play their roles in the economic transition of the entire continent. And this all starts with a genuine need for us to have a real presence in the field.”
P&WC engines – which power aircraft such as the ATR family and the Bombardier Dash and Q families along with the Beech 1900 – have essentially built the regional airline industry and are still very popular in Africa, he says.
And, with more and more second-hand regional airframes migrating from North America and Europe to Africa, P&WC is even more convinced that turboprops are best suited to support the rapid growth of commercial aviation on the continent.
“In the general aviation world,” he continued, “more and more aircraft platforms with P&WC engines are being utilised in the frequently harsh African conditions, and operators are looking to OEMs like us to support them better with more presence and new adapted services. As an example, the first Cessna Caravan EX (with latest PT6A-140 engine) to reach TBO – the time when it would need an overhaul – was from an operator based in Kenya.”
P&WC has a significant and growing presence in Africa and it claims to be a clear leader in turboprop-powered airframes in all key market segments, including general aviation (GA) and regional operations. It has more than 2,000 engines currently flying, although this number could be higher in real terms if the growing number of airframe ‘migrations’ is included.
But how does it intend to fulfil its ambitions on the continent?
Well, Rhissa Zakary believes that interconnection between major cities in Africa will be critical, with regional aviation playing a vital role as a key enabler.
“The vast majority of regional turboprops in Africa are powered by P&WC engines and so we want to improve our ‘proximity’ to operators throughout the continent by adding an enhanced technical presence,” he said. “We are starting this process by creating four new mobile repair teams based at Lanseria in South Africa, Nairobi in Kenya, Doha in Qatar and Toulouse in France, and these will be able to call on additional support from existing fixed-based operations (FBOs) and key fleet operators.
“We will also enhance our ‘digital offerings for Africa’. To this end, we are rolling out our flight acquisition storage and transmission (FAST) system to Africa’s P&WC operators, giving ‘near real-time’ awareness about engine health, usage and trends.”
Through this system, operators will receive information on trends and alerts within 15 minutes of an engine shut-down, helping to optimise dispatch reliability, maintenance and cost reduction. All this activity will support current operators in their move towards a fully planned and predictive environment.
P&WC is also working on creating and introducing new technologies to diagnose engine condition, which is particularly valuable in Africa’s sometimes challenging operating environments and more remote areas.
“For instance,” he said, “we are rolling out an innovative ‘oil debris monitoring system’ as a trial in Africa. This includes a ‘free’ oil sampling kit, together with pre-paid envelopes for sending samples for highly sensitive analysis during the trial period. This will assist operators on the continent by reducing maintenance costs, thus enabling enhanced budgeting and predictable maintenance.
“Our latest video technology – ‘Onsight’ – launched this year, is a further aid to the operators, helping to ensure that their mechanics have an improved understanding of critical tasks.”
To enable all this to happen, P&WC is setting up a dedicated local team (with support from specialists in North America, Europe and the Middle East) that’s focused on reviewing African operators’ current and future needs
P&WC is also working closely with the World Food Programme (WFP) to support fleet operations in the humanitarian sector across Africa.
“The majority of aircraft contracted by the WFP are powered by our PT6A and PW100 engines and this new partnership will give additional support, including participation in safety campaigns, training and maintenance best practices, engine updates and upgrades, and an overview of newly-introduced techniques and technologies,” explained Rhissa Zakary.
Supporting him with this latest initiative from the Canadian OEM in Africa is Satheeshkumar Kumarasingam, VP business development and commercial services, and Carsten Behrens, general manager of P&WC’s customer service centre in Europe.
Essentially, said Rhissa Zakary, we need to listen to our customers more effectively, identify issues as they occur and customise our approach to the very specific operational demands of the African continent.
Some of the issues, he explained, are similar to those that P&WC has experienced in parts of the Far East and Asia Pacific regions, but others are specific to the unique operating environments of rural and isolated areas of the many and varied countries within the vast African continent.

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