Sunday, July 23, 2000
The launch of the GE90
By Mike Boyer
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Just as important as maturing the technology for the GE90 in the early 1990s was landing its first customer.
With an all-new engine, GE Aircraft Engines was at a competitive disadvantage to Pratt and Whitney and Rolls Royce, which were marketing derivative engines in early airline sales competitions in 1991.
Japan Airlines, a leading potential customer for the 777, had a long-standing philosophy of not using new engines in its aircraft.
By 1991, said Brian Rowe, then GEAE president, it became apparent if we didn't win British Airways, there wasn't going to be a GE90.
Pursuing British Airways as the GE90 launch customer meant going head to head with British-based Rolls. Mr. Rowe had earlier had a falling out with Rolls over a failed engine development deal. Rolls, at one time, had been considered as a possible partner for the GE90 development, he said.
During vacation on Cape Cod in July 1991, Mr. Rowe spent two hours talking with top British Airways executives and came away feeling that GE could land the airline as a GE90 customer.
Returning from vacation, Mr. Rowe said, I flew to England and went straight to the British Airways offices as soon as I got off the plane.
During the course of negotiations, Mr. Rowe learned that British Airways was looking to divest its engine maintenance and repair plant in Wales. GE signaled its interest in buying them.
As the negotiations dragged through the day and late into the evening, Mr. Rowe finally gave British Airways an ultimatum.
I have a check here for a big sum of money (as down payment for the Wales shops) that we'll give you tonight and you put in the bank as soon as possible, but we've got to have a deal, he said, recalling the negotiations recently.
Five minutes later, he said, British Airways executives called him back in and said, OK Brian, you've got a deal.
That was really the launching of the GE90, he said. It was really tenuous. ... I'm not saying if we didn't buy the service shops we wouldn't have gotten the deal, but I think it helped tremendously.
Just as important was acquisition of the Wales repair shops, which launched GE into the engine repair business in Europe, becoming a key part of GE's growing engine services business.
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