Goodrich's N.S. (Pandri) Pandarinath on establishing Dubai-based aircraft maintenance facilities in just 14 months.
What aviation-related services does Goodrich provide?
We are a 135-year-old company and have been pioneers in the aerospace industry. We have been around for a long time, providing emergency escape slides and, later, flight mission critical components. We have some highly engineered and proprietary components on the aircraft. There is probably not a commercial aircraft in the world that doesn't have a Goodrich component today, so you name it from landing gears, to sensors, interior, highly-engineered components and so on.
What other products do you offer?
Our aviation life raft and cockpit seats are standard on a lot of the Bombardier and Gulfstream aircraft. We have sensor products, landing gear components and electronic suites. It's pretty much all pervasive.
How long were you working for Goodrich before moving to Dubai?
21 years. I worked for the interiors in Phoenix, Arizona which is the headquarters. I have been here during the past two years, setting up the Middle East facility. Anyone in my position at Goodrich is used to demands from the market place and it's exhilarating to be part of the growth, set up shop and get involved in something from scratch. The ultimate test is customer satisfaction.
It's about 14 to 15 months old. There is a gap in the region and this is a high growth area. We are in constant touch with the customers and it's their desire that we be as close as possible, providing real-time support. The other thing is Goodrich has evolved from handling the after market through strategic business units to a simplified customer interface. In other words, you might have dealt with nine to 12 individuals but now we can provide that simplified interface - that one-stop-shop. That's a significant change in the way we do business.
Which airlines do you work with in this region?
We work with all the airlines and that ranges from Emirates, which is 20-30 minutes away from our facility, to Etihad Airways, Air Arabia, Kuwait Airways, Al Jazeera, Saudi Arabian Airlines - you name it. It's all throughout the Gulf and African regions.
Why has it taken so long to establish an operation in this region?
It takes a lot of planning and commitment. It also requires a lot of capital infusion and we have to make sure we have the right synergies in place. Some 10 years ago, the market probably couldn't afford us or we couldn't afford to set up a facility as big as this. It hadn't evolved and the volume wasn't there for us to be able to move. We responded to the market conditions. If you look at the growth that Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways are going through, it's phenomenal.
How important is it to operate 24 hours a day?
It's vital primarily because of all the airlines flying all over the place throughout the day. You could have a plane that needs a component in Paris, New York or Sydney and Emirates will pick up the phone and say 'Pandri I need help'. Goodrich is global and we have over 40+ MRO facilities around the world, so we will be able to support clients for all needs.
Is providing maintenance support for the A380 your main focus?
It's not just the A380. If you look at the entire Airbus and Boeing fleet and regional and business jets, we look after the whole family of aircraft. Obviously, the cornerstone and the icing of the cake is the Airbus A380 and next year it will be the Boeing 787, so we have significant content on all of these aircraft.
When do you expect to start working on A380 components?
If you're looking specifically at the A380, we have been in discussions with Emirates, giving them an orientation about products and what it takes to maintain our equipment. We have also been talking to them about training their crew in maintenance engineering. That's been ongoing for two to three years now, and as the A380 comes into the region, starting the middle of next year, we will continue to accelerate our support.
Apart from emergency landing slides, what other components do you work on?
Asset management. In other words, airlines want to focus on flying their aircraft and that's their core expertise. They are looking for companies like Goodrich to say 'make it seamless'. You have a part that needs to be repaired, maintained or overhauled so we have a package in place. When the airline flies from here to Sydney, Singapore, Paris or New York, airlines need support. Goodrich facilities and assets around the globe can help them, which is significant.
How important is it to have a facility near Dubai's new airport?
It was one of the synergies we were looking for. We also considered the ease of doing business; it's a free trade zone and we can move in and out any time. There is absolutely no bureaucracy in terms of customs and regulations, which is a significant thing. Also, the Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority has helped us pick the location and build the facility purpose-built to our requirements.
How much did it cost to set up this relatively new facility?
US$25 million, which is a significant investment. It will continue to grow; that's just the beginning. Part of our expectations, as well as the management and shareholders' expectations, is to see a good return on the investment.
Will you carry out research and development from this facility?
Currently, that's not in our plan. The research and development takes place at our R&D centres which is embedded into our OEM facilities all around the world. The experience we gain from our product line here is fed back to our engineers. They in turn will take that information and help come up with a better or much improved product. Bringing R&D here is not in our plan, but you never know.
What are your immediate plans?
To continue to develop the Goodrich family of products and give the customers what they want. We need to come up with customised solutions and eventually branch out into the military field. We have significant content there and will be engaging the local authorities, such as the UAE government and defence forces, to develop a programme or package that meets their needs.
Are talks with the UAE military taking place?
Talks are ongoing because we supported all of our products from outside the UAE before we set up shop here. Now we are beginning to engage the military. Now that the facility is available, our business development people will come in and start engaging us with the customers.