DESIGNING SOLUTIONS FOR THE FUTURE - Helen Wen, Senior Sales Director of Asia Pacific Sales Marketing & Customer Support, Rockwell Collins
Rockwell Collins’ solutions for business aviation dates back to 1970 when the company introduced a new line of avionics for business jets and twin-engine airplanes. Named “Pro Line” in 1975, the avionics system has evolved today into Pro Line Fusion, which is being delivered on a number of business aviation and air transport aircraft. In 2013, the company acquired ARINC Incorporated and with it ARINCDirect; the complete package for business aviation solutions. Today, Rockwell Collins continues to meet and exceed the demands of business aviation, in this age of endless information.
WHAT UNIQUE VALUE DOES ROCKWELL COLLINS BRING TO CUSTOMERS?
Trust is woven into the fabric of Rockwell Collins and lies at the heart of relationships with our customers. It’s our calling card for new businesses and the reason that many of our customers come back to us again and again. Being awarded by Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier and COMAC as a top supplier is a testament to the trust customers have with us.
Also, over 85 percent of business jets in the world fly with Rockwell Collins avionics and our unique Corporate Aircraft Service Program (CASP) is able to offer customers the benefits of optimal aircraft operational availability while eliminating financial risks.
WHAT ARE THE IMMINENT AND LONG-TERM CHALLENGES YOU SEE FACING THE BUSINESS AVIATION INDUSTRY?
It has been almost a decade since we witnessed the peak for new aircraft deliveries from aircraft manufacturers. Despite a strong recovery in equity market post financial crisis and favourable US policies, we are not seeing an uptick for light to super mid-sized segment delivery. Heavy and long-range segments, which used to be relatively “sheltered” from financial turmoil, are beginning to show signs of a slowdown. There are many contributing factors ranging from regional instability, austerity measures, spike increase in aircraft charterers and others contributing to the cause.
However, we are seeing steady decrease in pre-owned aircraft inventory and an increase in aircraft utilization in traditional key markets Y-o-Y, which is a good sign of healthy demand.
The current regulatory environment continues to be one significant challenge that drives requirements for business aviation operators. Regulatory changes keep our customers busy, whether it’s new requirements for their Safety Management System (SMS), regulations regarding flight duty limitations and crew requirements and aircraft equipment upgrades. Specifically, aircraft navigation, surveillance and communication capabilities will determine which routes an aircraft can fly, which flight levels and it even has the potential to impact their ability to operate competitively.
As the business aviation industry grows in Asia Pacific, we’re also seeing regulators grow as they attempt to define business aviation and the regulations governing its operations. Many burgeoning economies’ civil aviation authorities are having difficulty differentiating business aviation operators, especially those offering charter services, from commercial airlines which operate entirely different.
HOW ARE YOUR SOLUTIONS DESIGNED TO MEET THESE CHALLENGES?
We recognize that the new norm is all about the pervasiveness of faster internet speeds, smart devices and information on demand. To that end, we decided to revolutionize the traditional cockpit. We introduced the Pro Line Fusion touchscreen flight display, QWERTY-format keyboard, and stack and turn knob controllers on the King Air. Many were unsure about the value it brings and how the pilot community would react, but were convinced once they flew on the new production King Air with our Pro Line Fusion flight deck, how intuitive all the controls were and how it all makes sense. We continued to look at ways of connecting technology with the human interface, making flying simpler for the pilots and safer for passengers.
Our ARINCDirect flight planning tool and SMS program allows customers to comply with the latest mandates by implementing and managing the total aspects of safety within their operation. Our FOS program allows customers to establish custom rules to meet their operational requirements, and combined with our flight planning system, it enables them to make a smooth transition from creating a trip within the ARINCDirect flight plan while ensuring that all regulatory requirements are met. We continue to look at automating many of the functions that are currently done by a pilot or dispatcher.
On the cabin side, our award-winning Venue™ cabin management system achieved over 1,000 installations but that has never stopped us from innovating further. This year we introduced 4K UHD video distribution, HD Airshow and in the near future we will add Bluetooth® connection options, integration of Rockwell Collins’ Stage™ content service and the introduction of larger, higher-resolution displays as new technology emerges.
CAN YOU COMMENT ON THE USE OF TECHNOLOGY IN BUSINESS JETS? WHAT ARE THE KEY DRIVERS, ADOPTION RATES AND INHIBITORS?
Today, the vast majority of aircraft passengers carry a smart device of some form on board with them, and this applies to both commercial airlines and business jets. As a result, there are an increasing number of commercial airlines offering solutions to remain connected throughout the flight, and business aviation as a bespoke service is keen to keep pace. Our customer’s passengers are demanding that aircraft remain connected to the internet, and they expect speeds similar to what they’re getting at home or in the office. Passengers are willing to pay a premium for these services, if it means that they’ll have a stable connection while at 41,000 feet.
We’re seeing an increasing number of customers installing the latest satellite equipment on board their aircraft as it has quickly become a requirement for Heads-of-States, VIPs/VVIPs and some charter operations.
On the flight deck, the biggest challenge to any new technology is perhaps adoption and perception. Like when we first introduced touchscreen displays in the flight deck, there were debates on the needs and purposes. However, when pilots finally experienced the use of touchscreens, they quickly got used to it and were amazed how intuitive and easy it was to operate.
Every year, our cabin team attends the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to research on new and emerging technologies to make sure they are kept abreast with the latest in the market and how it is revolutionizing the way people behave and react.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR ASIA PACFIC AND HOW DO YOU INTEND TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS IN THE REGION?
We plan to focus and expand more in Asia Pacific; the world’s fastest growing region, by reaching out to customers and increasing our presence through industry conferences such as ABACE, seminars and roadshows. In fact, we recently held our very first cabin interior seminar in Hong Kong to an overwhelming success. Besides updating customers with the latest we have to offer, the main purpose of the seminar is to share with customers’ tips, advice and educate them on things they may not know but affects both their operations and passenger’s expectations. Through sharing, we exchanged ideas and gathered feedback which goes a long way in ensuring we remain relevant in the marketplace. I encourage readers to attend our next seminar and reach out to our marketing team for more information.
We also intend to work with strategic partners, where appropriate, and to continue to innovate. Our goal will be to continue to deliver a high-quality service that our customers value, one which simplifies their whole operation, the cabin, cockpit and operations.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOUR COMPANY IN THE COMING YEARS?
The recent acquisition of B/E Aerospace has expanded our portfolio with a wide-range of cabin interior products for business jets including seating, food and beverage preparation, storage equipment, lighting and oxygen systems, and modular galley and lavatory systems. With these, Rockwell Collins aims to be the preferred nose-to-tail supplier for flight deck, cabin, connectivity and services.
Also, traditional buying cycles are a thing of the past; customers these days are becoming more informed and sophisticated and will thoroughly do their research before speaking with our representatives. They are also more precise with their requirements. In response to that, we have revamped our website and developed mobile phone apps to serve our customers better.
In conclusion, we believe in generating greater value for our customers with our enhanced portfolio, global customer support and expertize.