L-3 Aviation Products, a leading provider of commercial and military avionics, has opened a new MRO facility in Bengaluru to support customers in India and the region. On this occasion, Krishen Ganase, President of L-3 Aviation Products, spoke with Air Marshal B.K. Pandey (Retd), Senior Editor, SP’s Aviation. He said that while the company had been engaged in business in India for quite some time, they were aware that to be genuinely successful in India, they must necessarily become an ‘Indian Company’. Although cost advantage of manufacturing in India is reducing, it is not the company’s primary concern as it is looking for quality more than cost benefits. The new facility is a small but significant step in this direction and though the beginning can be described as humble, Krishen Ganase went on to say that five years hence one would not be able to recognise the place.
SP’s Aviation (SP’s): With the new facility on repair and overhaul in Bengaluru, can you spell out the key objectives? Which all markets will be addressed by this facility?
Krishen Ganase (Ganase): In establishing this new MRO facility in India, we ensure that a truly localised technical sustainment capabilities and expertise is available for our customers in India.
We will be expanding our capability here in Bengaluru by seeking DGCA Part 145 Repair Station approval to perform work on civil aircraft avionics for our local customers, to include service and support of our TCAS, TAWS, and ATC Transponder products, as well as flight and data recorders, flying on Airbus and Boeing aircraft, operated by airlines such as Air India, Jet Airways, IndiGo and SpiceJet. We have content on aircraft produced by ATR and Embraer for both civil and military platforms. And we supply to business jets such as Global Express, Challenger, Dassault, Learjet, Cessna, Hawker Beechcraft, and Bell and Agusta helicopters.
We are also adding logistics support capability to support on military aircraft, including CH-47, Apache AH-64D, C-130J, P-8I Neptune and Pilatus PC-7.
Ganase: This facility starts formal operations from April 1, 2015. We will be addressing our flagship Recorder Products (FDR/CVR) that are installed on ALHs, Pilatus PC-7, etc. This initial capability will be scaled to address the recorder products used in civil aviation in a very short time frame with appropriate regulatory approvals from DGCA. We see this facility expanding to address the complete line of avionics product that are manufactured by L-3 Aviation Products (L-3 AP).
SP’s: What kind of presence and the nature of business activities have you had in India till now? Who is your main competitor in India?
Ganase: Our products are on approximately 1,500 aircraft both military and civil, flying in India. Compare this with the market in US where our products are flying in 1,83,000 aircraft. The main competitor in India is Honeywell.
SP’s: Can you take us through the overall company profile of L-3 Aviation Products and its range of technologies across the spectrum of civil as well as military?
Ganase: L-3 Aviation Products is a leading provider of commercial and military avionics. We manufacture a diverse line of safety- and efficiency-enhancing products that sets the standard for next-generation requirements, including configurable voice and data recorders, collision avoidance systems, navigation products, display systems and processors. And of course, we provide MRO and aftermarket services, including total avionics support programmes and performance-based integrated logistics.
SP’s: What are the major ongoing projects of the company, back home, related to next-generation solutions both for civil and military applications?
Ganase: We’re a leader in the development of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) technology. We’re heavily involved in the global effort to upgrade aircraft with ADS-B Out transponders ahead of the various approaching mandates. We are also actively involved in the interoperability of UAS and manned aircraft in the airspace that is increasingly becoming dense and complex.
SP’s: Do you have any collaboration or interaction with the IT industry or any other field in the Indian aerospace industry in India?
Ganase: Avionics is definitely a specialised stream addressed by IT industry and falls under safety critical embedded systems. Given the maturity of Indian IT industry in this domain, we work with a few companies that undertake software modules development and re-engineering. We provide this outsourced process of software development with oversight and the regulatory compliance framework.
SP’s: Would you like to share your company’s experience at Aero India held in February 2015 at Yelahanka, Bengaluru?
Ganase: Aero India 2015 was a successful event for us. Increasingly, the Indian aerospace industry is becoming aware of what needs to be done to build maturity in the sector. India inherently does not have an ecosystem that would readily support aviation industry. We do observe the space sector to be relatively mature because of obvious reasons of not involved with passenger carrying activity and linked safety standards. It is imperative to diversify and build aerospace supporting ecosystem of Tier-I and Tier-II companies and assigning focused objectives at each of these levels. You cannot have one OEM that does all the tier work as well. Technology has come a long way in the West and investing effort in developing this technology from the grassroots is like re-inventing the wheel. It is the need of the hour to look at collaborations and policy actions to foster this growth.
SP’s: What is your view of the recent thrust by the government on ‘Make in India’? Do you foresee any impediments to this campaign?
Ganase: The intent of the ‘Make in India’ initiative is certainly good for India. L-3 AP is onboard as we seek the best strategic alliances to bring value to our state-of-the-art products and services for Indian aviation customers. This ‘Make in India’ impetus needs to be backed by positive governmental policy framework, we will wait to see how this progresses.
SP’s: What is your perception of the future of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) vis-à-vis manned aircraft in the regime of civil aviation? To what extent is your company involved in the development of avionics for UAS?
Ganase: UAS technology is destined to become a reality and the key issues would be its interoperability with the civil aviation. The key issue will be when both these manned and unmanned systems operate in same airspace. Airspace is a limited resource; and with ICAO trying to harmonise all for assured safety, there are several conflicts. We are at the leading edge of these developments and besides our current range of avionics, some of them are already optimised for SWaP (size weight & power) we are foraying into development and pilot implementations of NextGen safety and interoperability standards and products.