Although the concept is fairly straightforward, the term ‘firewall’ does carry an element of threat about it. Signifying a boundary that must not be crossed – or woe betide the person who does – it is currently in the news in relation to the implementation of 5G telecommunications networks developed by Chinese manufacturer HauWei. The need for a firewall particularly applies in the US and UK where even government networks are involved.
A firewall, however, is extremely useful when collaborations are developed between two entities which in many of their day-to-day operations are actually in competition with one another. As noted, the concept is fairly simple. The firewall separates two areas which should not have any direct access, those areas often being proprietary information.
The aerospace industry is a long-time user of firewalls, with collaborations of the type described above. A classic example has recently been celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first flight, namely Concorde.
The aircraft itself was a joint effort by the British Aircraft Corporation and Sud-Aviation, but the development of its Olympus 593 engine also involved two companies teaming up. Bristol Siddeley, before it became part of Rolls-Royce, and Snecma were chosen to collaborate with the work being split 60:40 respectively.
The variety of engine manufacturer joint ventures since then is extensive, with most of the big players joining each one of the others at some stage, depending on the project’s requirement. You can almost join the dots between them, though not necessarily chronologically.
To begin, Rolls-Royce had its Snecma collaboration on the Olympus as noted. The French manufacturer then went on to create, with GE Aviation, arguably the most successful 50:50 joint venture in CFM International. Moving on, GE joined with Pratt & Whitney in the Engine Alliance to produce GP7000 engines (competing with the Rolls-Royce Trent 900) for the Airbus A380. Closing the loop, Pratt & Whitney joined with Rolls-Royce – plus Japanese Aero Engine Corporation, MTU Aero Engines and FiatAvio – to establish International Aero Engines, which of course competed vigorously against CFM. Firewalls galore among those – and that’s just in the commercial engine arena.
As if these scenarios weren’t plentiful in engine manufacturing, the aftermarket also has a plethora of similar arrangements. Theses generally come in the authorized service centers for each manufacturer. Here, third party MRO operations receive official approval from an OEM for their support work for a particular engine.
For the MRO provider, being known for having that authorization is valuable in gaining business. For the OEM, which wants to extend the network of places where its engines can be maintained without investing in another center of its own, working with a trusted partner is a smart solution.
But firewall situations can exist even here, when an independent MRO center gains approval – usually on a product by product basis – from more than one engine OEM. For example, among its many approvals, StandardAero has the only Rolls-Royce authorized maintenance center for the AE 3007 engine in the USA and was the first independent repair and overhaul company to hold Authorized CF34CF34-3/-8 Service Provider status from GE.
Aviation might be an aggressive industry on many levels, but progress can often only happen with some collaboration. That’s when good firewalls are vital to prevent things from falling to pieces.