What are some of the latest updates about the EME Aero project?
Nothing has really changed, and we remain on track to begin operating in Poland at the start of next year. An FAA audit is scheduled for November 4, we then expect an occupancy permit by December before plans for the first engine induction that same month. When we get Luftfahrt-Bundesamt (LBA) approval, this will give us EASA approval and preliminary FAA approval and eventually, other regulators will likely accept this approval. Construction of the facility began around one year ago and right now; the logistics area is completely ready along with the cleaning and inspection desks which are in the testing phase. Once the floor flaps are completed, we will put the work areas in along with the last bits of equipment. We are confident we can keep everything to schedule.
EME Aero is targeting 450 shop visits for the Pratt & Whitney GTF engine when operational. How will this be ramped up from the start of the operation onwards?
We have a aggressive ramp up plan in place compared to other subsidiaries or engine lines we have built up. In 2020, we are looking at 40 engine inductions. In the coming years, this will be up to around 100 engines and the 450 figure is planned for 2025.
What about any manpower ramp-ups? How will this be put into place?
There will be approximately 1,100 employees by 2025, but at the start of the operation, there are currently 200 staff on board who have undertaken training, so the first mechanics are ready. Every month, there are more staff coming out of the quite lengthy training program of more than one year. This includes on the job training, theoretical training at our training center and basic practical training. The 200 people currently on-board will be ready for the entry-into-service of the operation at the end of the year. I am targeting a 20% to 80% white to blue collar ratio workforce split. Some roles, such as non-destructie testing staff, are hard to get and lengthy to train.
Has acquiring manpower been particularly challenging for the EME Aero venture?
Being based in Poland's aviation valley in Jasionka has paid off really well. On one hand, there's a good infrastructure of schools and universities that supply companies with people that want to work. Plus, there's a lot of companies based here that deliver the necessary expertise which has allowed us to recruit. For aviation and related industry businesses, there's around 25,000 employees in total based here from aviation affiliated businesses. Given this high volume of people, recruiting staff from these companies doesn't hurt the neighbouring companies or businesses. Overall, obtaining the appropriate personnel hasn't been a particular challenge.
Like with other new-generation engines entering into service, Pratt's GTF engine has had some well publicized technical challenges. Have these had any impact on EME Aero's planning?
It didn't change anything in terms of induction planning, but we did have numerous requests about potentially ramping up our engine intake even more. This is because there's a huge demand for maintenance repair services in the network, and certainly, the GTF network is counting on us - factoring in the PW1100, PW1500 and PW1900. Of the seven GTF MRO facilities around the world, EME Aero will be among the very largest. So there's a pressure to be online as planned. We expect workscopes that will reflect the modifications that need to be done, rather a little more extensive than what we had initially planned for lighter workscopes. Pratt & Whitney has done a good job in implementing modifications, and we expect heavier workscopes than initially planned.