CEO of Jet Aviation Group, one of the world´s largest service provider in Business Aviation.
FLUG REVUE: You took over in May as the new CEO of Jet Aviation. Did you find the company in the state you thought it would be?
Peter Edwards: Generally yes. I´ve been very familiar with the company for many years. At the high level there were no great surprises. My expectation were very high for the company. But nevertheless, once you come in to a new assignement, there´s always a period of discovery. But the company I joined was the company I intended to join.
FR: Have you identified sectors of Jet Aviation that you would like to change sooner than others?
Edwards: The pricipal area of exmination was our very ambitious growth program. And although that was well underway, as the incoming CEO, I wanted to validate the planing and assumptions behind that very large investments to make sure, we would be comfortable with the plan.
We looked at the market and the deeper we looked in the market context, the more confident we became that it not only would meet, but very likely would exceed the benchmark requirement thresholds we had set. It really is an extraordinary period. The depth and the quality of that backlog particularly in the widebody aircraft and high end business aircraft that we´re engaged in completion operations in, extends out quite a bit into the future. That was more robust than we had anticipated.
At the same time we´ve the maintenance side of the business, which is the core of our businesses. It´s extremly important to us. But we are reaching capacity limits. The overall MRO industry is growing between five and six percent and we wanted to grow at rates substantially above that. We´ve the reputation and the customer network to do that, but we´re running up against capacity constraints. So we really want to look at our capacity issues and make sure we´re matching up the long-term capacity in both maintenance and completions against the appropriate market drivers.
FR: So what was the next step?
Edwards: The next step was to examine internal processes and controls. And there we found there was a bit more work to do. Jet Aviation throughout its history and evolution had done an outstanding job of building very high quality products and taking extremely good care of its customers. But it was managed more than a small enterprise. As part of the overall plan for growth, we had to go in and modernise the business and prepare it for growth. Because managing growth is one of the most challenging things that a company can undertake. And we had to be sure that we upgrade our core systems and proceses and yet deliver the integrety of the schedules and the quality.
FR: So Jet Aviation is in a conversion from a family owned type of company to a normal corporate company? Does it help that you´re from the US corporate world?
Edwards: It´s been less a question of nationalities. We´re already a very international organization. It was more about structuring the business in a correct way to insure clear lines of authority and proper span of control. While the organisation was extremly flat in the past, we needed to put some vertical structures in it to strengthen the management of each of our two primary groups. It has simply outgrown its flat structure.
FR: Do you see constraints to your growth plan by the lack of availability of qualified employees?
Edwards: Certainly the personel element of growth is one of the central questions. But it´s always an important factor. But is has to be approached in a number of ways. You create the capacity for growth in your staffing through bringing in experienced people when they are available. But when they are not available, it´s a question of mentoring, training and teaching.
The second part is productivity programs. We examine our processes, our in-house manufacturing. Taking hours out of our manufacturing system, we create hours of additional hands. That helps ease the manpower issue.
And than we have to look at balancing the internal and external. We bring in contractors. But you never want your percentage of contractors outside to have a too great portion of your total workforce.
FR: Could acquistions be one means of growing your business?
Edwards: It certainly can be. When I came in, we had a fairly long list of interesting companies that might fit well with our growth in our lines of business. I felt that this list was far too long and too diversified. So the initial task was to narrow it down. We do have an interest in some businesses we think that might have value to the growth of the business. If the right opportunity at the right price comes along, and if its a good fit with the business, than we keep an pretty open mind on acquisitions.
FR: How many aircraft does Jet Aviation manage right now?
Edwards: More than 200 worldwide.
FR: Do you see growth on the FBO and jet management side, also?
Edwards: Yes. We clearly expect to expand the system. If you look at the United States in particular, we´re not well represented in the Western part of the United States. So that might be an area that we might have an interest in. In terms of the international market, setting up FBOs with a larger capacites like maintenance and other services, these would certainly be part of our overall growth and geographical expansion strategy. In terms of aircraft management: This is a particular interesting area of growth. There might be some consolidation out there, some changes in the industry. We might have the opportunity to pick up some managed aircraft and support a larger fleet. I like to do that. We see great synergies between our managed fleet and our other businesses.
FR: NetJets and Lufthansa offer a extender service with business aicraft which can be booked with Lufthansa´s CRS. Could you imagine a similar cooperation between Jet Aviation and another major airline?
Edwards: Our customers can charter aircraft for extender services. We can participate in those kinds of programs. Having a good relationship with service providers like NetJets both in Europe and in the United States, is very important to us. We talk to NetJets at many levels and we want to be certain that we provide the best service to them and their fleet.