GE Aviation sets ambitious expansion goals for Czech unit
GE Aviation’s Czech’s unit specializes in the type of turbo-prop engines used by business aircraft and those making fairly short city to city hops. Business was good last year with 80 aero engines sold, an increase of around 30 percent on 2013. That took 2014 turnover to 1.2 billion crowns compared with 860 million crowns in 2013.
But the bottom line figure for GE Aviation Czech is of a 342 million crown loss. That loss is the result of the sizeable sums being injected into research and development with a new turboprop engine being designed which could give the company a bigger slice of a market still dominated by Pratt & Whitney Canada.
Since taking over the former Czech company Walter Aircraft Engines in 2008, the US company reckons that it has sunk around 1.8 billion crowns into research and development of new and improved turboprop engines for its local producer.
The first real results from that research came with H80 engine which twinned a lot of Czech engine knowhow with the US parent company’s grasp of how new designs and materials could produce a lighter and more fuel efficient engine. The new engine could also operate at higher altitudes and was better suited to hotter climates which meant that its potential sales market was widened compared with the long running M601 engine. It also had the advantage of shorter and simpler maintenance so costs for operators could be reduced as well.
The H80 was developed in 2009 and installed on the first aircraft in 2010. Production at the Czech plant just outside Prague is running at around two engines a week. Five years on, and with GE focusing most of its light aircraft ambitions on the Czech plant, a new engine is now being developed to take on those coming out this year and further down the road from Pratt & Whitney. HN reported that GE Aviation currently commands around 5 percent of the market for 800-900 horsepower engines which is regarded as well below what it could be achieving.
Czech expansion plans are aimed at keeping up with an estimated 20-30 percent annual increase in sales but are being braked to some extent by the difficulty in finding the highly specialized research and production workers required. The company employs just over 400, around a quarter of whom work on research and development.