2009 Product Support Survey - Part 3: Engines
For reasons that are not clear, every engine manufacturer scored fewer points in this year’s survey than in last year’s, something that did not happen with the airframers and avionics makers. Williams International retains the number-one spot among turbofans for the quality of product support it provides our readers (its customers), and Rolls-Royce remains in the number-two spot. Pratt & Whitney Canada makes a big stride into third place (from fifth last year). Rolls-Royce Deutschland drops to fourth from third, its score falling the most at -5.47 percent; Honeywell climbs to fifth from sixth; CFE drops to sixth from fourth; and GE remains at the bottom in seventh.
Among engine models, the Williams FJ44 achieves the top average score this year, moving up from last year’s second place. Last year’s top-scoring Honeywell HTF7000 moves into fifth place this year, scoring nearly 8 percent less this year. All of Pratt & Whitney Canada’s turbofans move up in the model rankings this year, and the company’s PW500 series is the sole engine industry-wide to score more points this year than last, an improvement that elevates the engine to sixth place this year from 11th last year.
The Rolls-Royce Spey takes the largest drop, its overall average score falling more than 9 percent to 12th place from fourth last year. Last place among turbofans this year falls to GE’s CF34, P&WC’s JT15D having moved up two spots from last year’s bottom place.
The Rolls-Royce Tay, successor to the Spey, takes the trophy this year for overall engine reliability by a comfortable margin, and it also topped the charts for both authorized and factory service centers, AOG response and tech reps. These rankings take the Tay to third place overall this year, up three rungs from last year. The Tay’s Indianapolis stablemate, the AE3007, earned the most points for parts availability.
Pratt & Whitney Canada’s diminutive PW600, which powers the Cessna Mustang, Embraer Phenom 100 and Eclipse 500 VLJs, ranked highest for warranty fulfillment and technical manuals.
Taking top honors for fairness in the cost of parts and (a new category this year) cost-per-hour maintenance programs is overall winner Williams International.
Among turboprops and turboshafts, Honeywell’s TPE331 topped every single category in its resounding overall victory, the second consecutive year it has achieved this notable distinction.
The box on the facing page explains how Forecast International calculated the numerical scores for each manufacturer and engine series, and it is those numbers that decide the final rankings. However, readers’ comments hang the flesh on the bare bones, conveying a fuller picture of the body of evidence upon which this survey depends, and for that reason we devote the bulk of the narrative here to what our readers had to say beyond assigning scores for each category. We endeavor to place the comments in perspective by noting whether they represent the majority or minority verdict, and we stand by the confidentiality we pledge to readers who participate in the survey. Beyond what we print here for all to see, none of the information on the questionnaires is shared with anyone outside AIN and survey administrator Forecast International.
For the most part, readers had little to add in words that they hadn’t said with numbers. As befitting the overall winner, the comments were largely positive in all categories, but a few mentioned specific issues and are presented here so that Williams can see what tugged at the top dog’s leash this year.
Thomas Swanson, chief pilot for Papa Golf Aviation, noted that while “Cessna parts [availability was] great, getting Williams to release probes etc was a challenge sometimes.” Under technical manuals, one reader described the online presentation as “confusing and hard to access.” Said another: “Guidance needs to be distributed to operators with regard to the new Fadec software upgrade.” On its cost-per-hour program, one operator said, “Jim Wilson has built Total Assurance into a superior engine.” Regarding overall reliability, one reader said, “A few engine probe heat issues, Fadec glitches…but the fuel economy is priceless.” Papa Golf’s Swanson added, “We did encounter a number of engine-related issues, but most were normal situations. We had an unusual Fadec/PMA shaft issue that perplexed both Cessna and Williams for months.”
Again this year, Rolls-Royce turbofans held onto their number-two slot despite the fall of the Spey to 12th place from fourth last year, thanks to gains by the AE3007 and Tay. Authorized service centers for the AE3007 singled out for praise were the KSMF Citation Service Center and (described as “bulletproof”) Standard Aero. For the Spey, kudos to Dallas Airmotive and Jet Aviation Basel. For the Tay, Dallas Airmotive again and “Once again, Pentastar Aviation shines here. They have an incredible team of powerplant technicians who know the engines as well as Rolls-Royce. They have pulled a few rabbits out of hats for me at the last minute,” according to Ken Brickett, director of maintenance for Paraffin Air. For the Rolls-Royce 250, service centers named for a job well done are Standard Aero Charlotte and Vector Aerospace. One operator was “not too impressed” with Keystone’s quality control and “will most likely go back to Standard Aero next time.”
Rolls-Royce factory service centers rated well overall, particularly Rolls-Royce Montreal, of which Crown Melbourne chief engineer/pilot Michael Carney had this to say: “Great team of people. Always available and keen to assist us at any time or place in the world. They do a great job with our midlifes and overhauls. We have put at least eight engines through this facility in the last 14 years and never had a problem. Well done.”
Two Brazilian 250 operators complained of poor parts availability in their region, and a director of maintenance in the U.S. said, “We use PMA  parts as much as we can. Rolls-Royce has done its best to screw up a good thing ever since it acquired Allison Gas Turbine.” One AE3007 operator complained that “fuel filters must come from Rolls-Royce and are difficult to locate and acquire.” African Air Sol chief pilot James Lloyd complained that Spey parts “from the factory can be very slow.” Parts were largely deemed to be too expensive by respondents not on hourly maintenance plans.
R-R technical manuals had a majority of fans but some operators found their format to be lacking. An AE3007 operator had this to say: “There is no inspection that requires fuel filter replacement; they rely instead on an ‘impending bypass’ message to come on. This might work well for commuters that are always at a base, but it is crippling for corporate operators who do not always land at maintenance bases. Operators should replace them at 1,000 hours to avoid problems on the road.”
Of tech reps, 250 operator Bill Osborn said, “Since we use a non-certified or factory-approved service center and use some PMA parts, the Rolls-Royce tech reps will not help us with answers to even general 250 questions.” R-R tech reps in general earned compliments, and singled out for high praise were Robert Medina, Zane Cox, Mary Cote, Jennifer Laing and Ed Bailiff. Overall reliability of all Rolls engines was overwhelmingly admired and inspired adjectives such as “bulletproof… awesome…amazing…unbelievable…excellent…outstanding” and this: “Engine [AE3007] reliability is great, with the exception of the oil debris issue. Will we ever see a solution to this? It is absurd to expect someone to pay $20+ million for an aircraft that requires a maintenance event every 70 hours.”
PRATT & WHITNEY CANADA
Authorized service centers were generally well regarded, with Duncan Lincoln and Dallas Airmotive named for the high quality of their JT15D work. PT6 operator Gary Cox, however, singled out Dallas Airmotive for its “terrible” customer service. “They took six months to overhaul our PT6A-60As. They have a Web site called Turbine Update where you can monitor the progress of your engines, but I was never granted access after several attempts in the six months they had my engines.” Other PT6 operators singled out Jet Aviation Dusseldorf, Aeromotores in Guatemala, ProStar, Stephens Aviation GSP, Banyan Air Service and the very same Dallas Airmotive as good pro-viders. PW300 operators had mixed feelings: “excellent work and response” but also this, “We have our IBR inspections done by Atlantic Aero in GSO. They send a team to support our engines during the A check. Due to scheduling they are working weekends a lot, and this leaves us paying double or triple time to the local shop to be here when the IBR team is around.”
Of P&WC’s factory service centers, readers had similarly mixed verdicts. JT15D operators’ comments ran the gamut: “Extremely inadequate… Excellent response to AOG and scheduled hots… Go somewhere else for hots. Installed part wrongly twice; aircraft out of service for two weeks… Good.” A PT6 operator said P&WC needs “improvement in Canada. A small fix in my engine (compressor shroud rubbing) took almost 45 days in an engine with only 300 hours,” another said “very slow to do warranty work” and another (operating both the PT6 and the PW500) asserted that “P&W service center at home base charges much more for equal work than authorized centers.” A PW300 operator complained about the scarcity of choices for factory service: “Oregon vs Montreal. Give me a break.”
With a few exceptions, operators were generally happy with parts availability. One PW500 operator noted that “40 days on the ground waiting for parts is just too much”; and others said, “Some parts not available when engine needed rebuild, so an extra three weeks of loaner time” and “Delayed rebuild due to lack of parts.”
Of AOG service, a JT15D operator complained that Aviall’s AOG weekend service is “very poor.” Overall, the majority of operators are happy with AOG response.
On warranty fulfillment, most operators satisfied but not all: “Very slow issuing credits [PW500]… Lots of paperwork to get what’s coming to you…”
JT15D and PT6 tech manuals get generally good grades, but not so positive for the PW300 manuals: “Cumbersome… Not as intuitive as I would like. Seem a little difficult to navigate smoothly… User interface needs to improve… CD manual is a bit old-fashioned in its operation and layout, but it works… Need work.” The PW500 manuals are generally well regarded but “they can be cumbersome to navigate, and Pratt should try to pattern theirs after Cessna’s.” Greece’s Hellenic Air Force said “it has been hard to establish a subscription with PW for [PW600] online manuals.”
P&WC’s tech reps garnered mostly favorable comments (“they’re the glue that holds customer service together,” according to one PT6 operator) but not all: “Nobody can tell me when a [JT15D] compressor wash is recommended?... Unaccountable, unreliable [JT15D]… Haven’t ever met the guy in three years and he lives in the same town [PW300].” Singled out by name for good work: Victor Camacho [PT6 and PW300], Carl Rockel [PW300, PW600], Francis DeGuchey [PW300], Roger Boekmann [PW500, Cessna northeast rep], Bob Fregeau [PW500] and Bob Williams [PW500].
On cost-per-hour programs, a fair percentage of PT6 operators complained that the PT6 plan is expensive, but one noted, “Recent experience has shown a massive improvement in this area. P&WC appears to be paying a lot more attention to these programs, and response has been quick and complete.” Noted another PT6 operator, “They unfortunately don’t have a program that makes sense for owner-pilots who fly less than 400 hours a year. I would love to have one that made sense at a fair price.”
JT15D operators love the reliability (including this intriguing comment from one operator, “Good even when it self-destructs”) except “pesky air leaks.” The only negative comments about PT6 reliability said that the engines have “a known problem with the CT shroud rubbing” and “we had an oil leak that was very difficult to find and resolve, and required several out-of-state service visits.” Otherwise, the usual litany of “excellent…It’s a PT6!…very good…outstanding…bulletproof… one of the top five engines of all time” and, with odd understatement, one “rather good.”
The PW300 attracted some fairly wild fluctuations in opinion, such as “solid… excellent… more issues than the TFE731… leaks too much oil, always a mess on the cowlings and we’ve had issues with the fuel pumps in the past (tolerances were too close).”
Same variety with the PW500, ranging from “excellent…none better…outstanding…beyond excellent, seems like all we do is feed it oil from time to time” to “if these engines are not leaking oil out of every seal they are corroding badly. Various substandard parts and materials are used that are very vulnerable to corrosion… Some EEC problems this year… No engine failures but two fuel control issues.”
PW600 comments were a mixed bag with no clear message, ranging from “excellent” to “numerous quality issues after Step 4 early overhaul campaign that have decreased my dispatch reliability.”
A BR710 operator complained that “parts availability continues to depend on participation in the Corporate Care program hourly program. No hourly program, no part quickly.” Said another, “We have had to wait seven days for parts but have missed only one trip due to delays.” Comments on AOG response were almost unanimously generous in their praise, save these two contrarians: “Slow!” and “Slow and argue.” Comments on warranty fulfillment were about evenly spread between good and tepid, such as “most difficult to deal with of all the engine manufacturers” and “Rolls-Royce is always difficult about certain problems. It is not good about communicating whether the problem is occurring with other aircraft in the fleet or just on our aircraft.” The verdicts on technical manuals were across the board, from “best in the industry…the Aeromanager site is a great tool” to “cumbersome…still difficult to navigate online…some troubleshooting is not described in manuals” and, the zinger, posted by Michael Magnani, “The worst manuals in the industry, and no amount of customer pressure has caused Rolls-Royce to commit the time and money to improve them. The standard response from R-R is ‘They are what they are.’”
BR710 operators, too, singled out tech rep Jennifer Laing for her good work, along with Gordon Aiken, and as a group the tech reps garnered zero negative comments.
On the R-R Deutschland cost-per-hour program, one comment succinctly summed up the reality: “This program is expensive but preserves the value of the asset for the owner.” Said another, “Not applicable, too expensive. Preferential treatment for Corporate Care customers is disgusting.” And another, “$544 per airframe hour. Very expensive.”
With a couple of not very informative exceptions (“Room for improvement… Had various problems in the first 200 hours since new”), operators responding to the survey are awed by the reliability of the BR710: “Hardly ever open the cowlings. Best in the industry…100% dispatch reliability to date…Perfect…Excellent. What an engine!”
The HTF7000’s overall average took top honors last year among turbofans, and it scored highest in parts availability, AOG response, tech manuals, tech reps and overall product reliability. This year, however, despite what is regarded as a trouble-free entry into service aboard the Challenger 300 and despite its being chosen to power Embraer’s two new midsize jets and Bombardier’s Learjet 85, the engine fell to fifth place overall and did not lead in any category, a major reversal for the top t-fan of 2008.
Readers spoke their opinions about the HTF7000 more with numbers than with comments, which were sparse: “Need more [authorized service centers]…I don’t know of any outside the factory…GKN really needs to step up, get a handle on these thrust-reverser issues and support the product with quality parts… Very good [tech reps]…[Tech reps] need improvement in Mexico… [MSP] Rather expensive… [MSP] Really good.” And on overall engine reliability: “Super engine. No leaks, no problems except thrust reverser issues… Good…Excellent…Outstanding.”
The TFE731 turbofan moves up two places to eighth this year, and the TPE331 continues to reign supreme, topping every category in turboprops. First, operator comments on the turbofan: Authorized service centers: “Honeywell Frankfurt is recommended…Standard Aero Los Angeles could not meet the downtime they set for two MPIs due to manpower [says CSIM Air director of maintenance Andy Lindborg]…Last used Landmark but it was a tossup between them and Dallas Airmotive. Both have done a good job for us…Duncan LNK and Landmark DAL good… Bizjet is excellent…Dallas Airmotive handled the MPI/CZI on one of our -5s last year. Did an excellent job facilitating the rental swap, getting the engine back on the airplane and making sure all was working. Also upgraded us to the N1 DEECs [says Gatlin Development chief pilot Aaron Turner]…Most centers do a great job…Great work by Turbine Engine Specialists… Standard Aero in Augusta, Ga. is the go-to shop…Duncan LNK does a terrific job…First experience with Dallas Airmotive was positive… Standard Aero SPI has done us a great job. Bud Saputo has been at this location for many years and does an outstanding job working with customers [says VF director of aviation & travel David Newell]… We are experiencing the same issues with engines as with other maintenance. Little or no support for aircraft type [Falcon 50] in the region of operations (Middle East) and no authorized repair stations available for P4 registry aircraft of this type…”
Comments for the remaining categories for the TFE731 and TPE331 were largely positive, with some exceptions: “I really wish Honeywell would have a technician write the [tech] manuals with clear and concise instructions, instead of being written by what seems to be the legal department. It complicates the manuals and confuses the end user–a technician…I am having trouble ordering [TPE331] manuals from Honeywell.” On cost-per-hour programs: “The cost of MSP is going out of sight. In a recession, those costs should be going down. Based on the reliability of our 731s, MSP is way, way over-priced…Using JSSI over MSP due to cost differential and ‘transfer’ costs and capability…JSSI is on high side…JSSI too much per hour…JSSI works as advertised…[unspecified program] is my major beef. Knowing it is
an old design tempers what we have to pay but it is way too high relative to other engine cores… Seems over-rated to me… Sure ain’t helping me get a raise… Annual increases are getting a little too much. Need to be level with the cost of flying.”
TFE731/TPE331 tech reps singled out for compliments were Gerrit de Vries, Dan Moog, John Garrard, Mike Thomas, Scott Arms and Jack Wolf.
The overwhelming majority of comments on TFE731 overall engine reliability were positive. A selection of others: “Same problems with leaking air seals and high gearbox pressures…Honeywell should provide upgrade options as part of MSP rather than offer new products that could instead be considered service bulletins. But Honeywell prefers to make the operator pay for them as a new product.” All comments on TPE331 reliability were enthusiastically positive. For example: “My TPE331-6-252Ms have been extremely reliable. I have not had a major engine issue during the more than 10 years I have owned my MU-2. After two engine failures in my P Baron, engine reliability was one of the major reasons I purchased the MU-2. This has proved to be a very good decision.”
CFE dropped two places this year, to sixth from fourth, as did its CFE738 engine (which powers the original Falcon 2000), from eighth to tenth. Authorized service centers: “Duncan excellent… Wilmington, Del. the worst…Dassault Falcon service center: efficient and professional.”
Parts availability, AOG response, warranty fulfillment, tech reps, all positive. Technical manuals, all positive except one: “need improvement in user interface.” Cost-per-hour programs, all positive except one: “Fairly high.” And overall engine reliability, unanimously good, very good or excellent.
In overall engine reliability, the CF34 scored the same as the FJ44 from survey winner Williams, and yet CF34 builder GE again finished last in product support for turbofans.
No authorized service center got a negative review. GE’s factory service facilities got good reviews too, except for “Just getting a quote is a bad experience. Do not allow an engine to go through their shop without oversight. When the invoice comes, be prepared to reference your discussions on what was promised vs what you got…Not competitively priced.”
Parts availability good except for: “Engine fan blade forging issue is absurd. GE wants customers to pay for a known manufacturing defect. Not what I would expect from GE.”
AOG response OK to excellent if ever used by respondent.
Warranty fulfillment good except for “The fan disc and blade replacement for engines
in warranty is a horrible program on the part of GE…Some open issues that do not get resolved, now more than two years old… Slow…Submitted one $1,200 claim; got denied…No issues, no failures yet.”
Tech manuals generally good except for “Need more online access…Difficult to move around in…The new DVD format is nice but a little stiff to use.”
Tech reps 75 percent good, 25 percent not so good: “One visit in four years…Not very visible… Don’t hear much from him.”
Cost-per-hour programs: more than half the comments were positive (“We have been most pleased with GE Engine Services for the value received for the money paid, but the accounts receivable department seems overly aggressive… Competition seems to have brought down the price of GE’s OnPoint program”). Others: “Program costs increase excessively… Too expensive… Do not include enough.”
Overall engine reliability almost completely “outstanding… excellent…bulletproof…100%… a 10.” Exceptions: “Is it a good thing that the CF34 is used in airliners, where it can accumulate thousands of hours/cycles, exhibit its weaknesses and cause us low-utilization business jet operators hundreds of thousands of dollars in engine work? I’m still trying to answer that question,” says Pittco’s George Linder. Perhaps most telling: “Outstanding reliability. This is a saving grace from the other attributes covered under this survey and hides some of the lack of product support,” raising the question of whether it’s better to have lackluster support for a sturdy engine that hardly ever breaks or effective support for less reliable power.
After rising to third place among four turboprop/turboshaft manufacturers last year, Turbomeca this year is back at the bottom, not just in overall average score but in every category except for tech reps and cost-per-hour programs, both of which were claimed by Rolls-Royce.
For authorized service centers, a prevalent theme was that there aren’t any. For factory service centers, responses were predominantly negative (“Horrible…Poor…Quality of work seems to be declining…We were asked to pay a very high price to rent special tooling. I was disappointed…Overhaul of current engine is approaching 60 days”) or double-edged (“Good and expensive…Quality of work is excellent though turn times seem a little slow.” But also “Turbomeca Germany excellent cooperation.”
Parts availability mostly negative: “What parts? Do they make parts?...They rarely have any in stock. Extremely difficult to deal with. They will issue a mandatory service bulletin and not back it up with enough spare parts. You have to wait your turn…Spare engines in U.S. are in short supply. Maybe only one or two.” All manufacturers attracted mostly negative comments for parts prices, but Turbomeca drew intense criticism from all but one respondent, who ventured a timid “seem a
AOG response was evenly split between positive and negative but tended to fly to the extremes: “They can’t spell AOG…Terrible” and “Excellent… Very good… Excellent. Personnel are courteous and professional… Very good. They do what it takes.”
On warranty fulfillment, one operator fumed at length: “We tend to spend more time debating what the contract said than what we are going to do to get the aircraft back in service. We have to talk to six different people via phone and e-mail to arrange a module change or part change in the field; we used to talk to only two (the CSR and the tech rep), who both knew our business and staff. Now it seems like all the communication is at our end, and we have to chase them down at times to get a follow-up on support requests. We have noticed a decline in the past four months, January to April 2009.” However, there were two positive comments for each negative.
On technical manuals, the mix was about even: “Need to be able to speak French…Poorly written…Poor structure, mixed part numbers…OK…Bad.”
Mostly positive comments on tech reps: “Tech reps are the only thing that saves Turbomeca. Chris Woosley and Grant are some of the best I’ve worked with…Jason Mitchell is a great asset to his organization…Grant Wythman is outstanding…Blair Peddle is best tech rep for Canada.”
On overall reliability, positive outweighed negative by a factor of more than two to one, summed up best by “Works well, but if you have a problem, oh boy.”