New maintenance unit in Belgium is a big leap to Europe and beyond
Text: Otavamedia Photos: Patria
The new company name is Patria Belgium Engine Center SPRL (PBEC) and it specialises in the maintenance and overhaul of Pratt & Whitney F100 engines. This engine type is used in F-15 and F-16 fighter jets worldwide.
PBEC is now part of Patria’s International Support Partnerships business unit.
“We started by incorporating the new company into Patria’s financial administration and continued with human resources management, re-branding and business synergies. The next major step is to do it with the IT systems, which will soon become possible once the related formalities will allow it,” says Antti Huuskonen, who first led the business integration process and since March 2020 has been Marketing & Sales Director of PBEC.
The acquisition was part of a larger whole, where Kongsberg and Patria bought AIM Norway and BEC leading to the current structure where Kongsberg Aviation Maintenance Services (KAMS) is 49.9% owned by Patria and PBEC is 100% owned by Patria.
With the acquisition of PBEC, Patria is now the owner of one the most specified aeroengine maintenance and overhaul companies. PBEC’s capabilities are built on the “Deal of the Century” in 1975, in which the so-called EPAF countries (European Participating Air Forces meaning Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium) made a joint acquisition of F-16 fighters, around 348 planes.
Manufacturing and assembly of the planes was shared between the countries, and PBEC (which at that time was part of FN Motors) manufactured and assembled the fan and core modules and assembled and tested all the F100 engines. More than 600 engines were assembled and after the production, PBEC’s capabilities were focused on the depot-level maintenance of the F100 engine modules.
Today there are only a handful of companies in the world that provide the same depth of services for F100 engines. PBEC is one of the most experienced companies in this field and works in very close partnership with its customers and the OEM of the engine, Pratt & Whitney.
“In Belgium, we will be soon starting our intermediate-level F100 services on site at the air force base, which is an important new opening for us. We are hoping this service concept will become a reference for some other countries in the future,” says Gery Vanhalsberghe, Sales Manager of PBEC. In the future, PBEC hopes to grow in the US market as well.
Alessandro Carrella, Sales Manager in charge of US market sales explains: “Our company did sizeable business with US customers several years ago. Based on this experience and supported by Patria’s wider interest in growing in the US market, we are aligning ourselves accordingly. Based on PBEC’s strong engineering relationship with USAF, we have been able to identify huge potential opportunities with the US air force and there is a lot of activity in progress. It is definitely a future prospect for us,” Carrella believes.
“Besides European and US markets, PBEC is strongly active with other global F100 customers in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America. We believe PBEC’s full depot-level service capability, effectiveness, quality and customer orientation are assets that will continue to leverage us in the current market,” says Ronald Andre (Aeron Engineering Ltd), a long-time consultant for the company.
“With customers continuing to choose the F100 as the mainstay of their fleets and new F100 customers on the horizon, the F100 MRO potential for the forthcoming years looks very promising,” Andre suggests.
“We eagerly look forward to reaching a point where we are more familiar with the other aviation MRO-related units of Patria, as we trust there is potential for additional synergies and cross-learning between the units,” Andre continues.
One part of PBEC’s marketing and sales is customer support, run by Eloise Fraiture and Solange Marsin. At PBEC, the customer support team is the main point of contact of existing customers for everyday requests.
“As an intermediary, we internally coordinate the follow-up of the repairs, the shipping and the invoicing. We also work closely with sales managers and we are looking forward to facing new challenges together. PBEC is looking into the diversity of aeroengine maintenance and also military item repair. We have a lot of competence and we are able to expand our services to other engine types as well," says Andre.
Despite its long lifespan, extending from the early 1970s to beyond 2030, the use of F100 engines will eventually decline along with the introduction of new fighter types with different engines. Therefore, PBEC is getting ready to broaden its services into other engine types – both military and commercial prospects are being analysed.
“We are looking into the diversity of aeroengine maintenance and also military item repair. We have a lot of competence and we are able to expand our services to other engine types as well,“ shares Gery Vanhalsberghe.
The marketing and sales team of PBEC is very international. The variety of nationalities, professional and cultural backgrounds as well as language skills is an advantage in different markets and in interactions with customers.
“I am very happy to be a part of this cross-cultural team, and trust that the diversity of our marketing and sales team will be a definitive strength contributing to PBEC’s future success,” says Antti Huuskonen.
PBEC is a military jet engine maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) center that services the Pratt & Whitney F100 engine which powers F-15 and F-16 aircraft around the globe.
It also provides material management services for those engines.
PBEC was previously owned by AIM Norway. Patria has been the owner since June 2019.