The Czech aviation industry has good times ahead, Milan Macholán, director of PBS Velká Bíteš says (part I)

The Czech aviation industry has good times ahead, Milan Macholán, director of PBS Velká Bíteš says (part I)
12 / 09 / 2019, 10:00

Security Magazín and Czech Defence Journal bring an interview with the CEO of První brněnská strojírny (PBS) Velká Bíteš, Milan Macholán. PBS is a traditional engineering company that has been building its brand for a long time as a manufacturer and supplier of aircraft engines, power-generation units and aircraft technology equipment. In the interview Mr. Macholan presents his views of the current state of the aviation industry, says what are the most important PBS projects for this year or how expensive it is to produce a new aircraft engine.

  • Mr. Macholan, at the IDET 2019 fair as part of the presentation of your company, the President of DSIA (Defence and Security Industry Association) Jiří Hynek said that the situation of the aircraft industry has improved in the last 15-20 years, but it is still not ideal. So what do you think the industry is missing?

The Czech aerospace industry has survived the turbulences of the 1990s and is currently experiencing a boom again. PBS, like other aviation companies, exports most of its production, and air exports from the Czech Republic have been growing for the ninth year in a row. But this is a very specific field, as it is one of the most regulated sectors and it is very important for it to get support from the state. Without systematic support through economic diplomacy, Czech companies can hardly assert themselves on the world markets.

See also: Czech Defence Industry - PBS: Aircraft Engines

The current situation on the labor market is also reflected in the aviation industry. There is a shortage of skilled workers, but not just aircraft designers. We are always looking for the whole spectrum of professions. In the future, support for technical education could improve the situation. There is not much interest among young people in technical studies today.

  • How do you personally see the future of the aviation industry in 15-20 years?

Own research and development, know-how and condition of production capacities rank the Czech aviation industry among the important ones and I would say it belongs to the strategic branches of the domestic industry. After all, the Czech Republic is one of the few countries in the world that produce aircraft components almost from A to Z in its own territory. In terms of the number of companies operating in the aerospace industry in terms of population, the Czech Republic is fourth behind the US, UK and Germany. I believe that a quality background in the form of a long tradition and experienced professionals is a good prerequisite for stable growth. Everything suggests that the Czech aviation industry has good times ahead.

  • What are the most important projects that PBS wants to realize this year?

Typical for our products is that we are able to develop our devices according to the customer’s individual requirements. This year, for example, we will complete modifications to the PBS TJ80D with diagonal compressor, the PBS TJ100P, a PBS TJ100 without an oil system, and we are also working to extend the service intervals of our auxilliary power units (APUs), aircraft and helicopter power units, power supply for on-board systems and also compressed air supply for air conditioning systems. We are also developing a "marine" engine variant PBS TJ100, which will have a special modification allowing repeated landing in salt water environment. We have also started mass production of the new jet engine PBS TJ150.

See also: Aero Vodochody – producer of famous trainers (founded 1919)

Certification tests of air-conditioning devices and fuel system are waiting for us as part of the certification of the new L-39NG aircraft produced by Aero Vodochody. Within the Precision Casting Division, we are introducing dozens of new types of castings for turbine blades, including hollow blades and blade segments, as well as turbine axial and radial wheels. However, we are also constantly investing in new technologies. For example, we purchased a new five-axis CNC machine and a 3D printer that significantly speeds development and saves costs. The Precision Casting Division plans to purchase a turbine blade balancer, robotic turbine blade grinding as well as robotic 3D optical measurement equipment that will significantly shorten and refine the inspection of final castings.

  • How do you evaluate last year in terms of orders?

Last year, as well as the last three to five years, we did quite well. We focus on continual development, innovation and gaining new markets, which makes our sales grow. This year, therefore, we expect a record volume of signed orders and achieved sales.

  • What products from your portfolio have you presented at this year's IDET in Brno?

It was the auxiliary power unit Sapphire 5K / G MI, which is our best-selling final product. Another exhibit was our latest jet engine PBS TJ150, which I consider a significant success in the development of our aircraft technology. PBS TJ150 was created by demanding design modifications of the highly successful PBS TJ100 engine. The result is a jet engine with higher thrust while maintaining the weight and diameter of the weaker version.

  • PBS focuses primarily on the production of aircraft engines, your profile products are also auxiliary power units or air conditioning systems and other products. How long does it take to develop an aircraft engine that will then be competitive on world markets?

Our development can be perceived on two levels. These are various modifications on customer's request. Because all of our development and production is done in-house at the PBS plant in Velká Bíteš and we control the production of all components, we are able to offer the customer virtually any technically possible product modification. Depending on the difficulty of the adjustment, it is possible to develop the required variant usually in a matter of months. I have given specific examples above.

If we are talking about developing a brand new engine, these are, of course, years of persistent efforts. For example, the development of our latest PBS TJ150 jet engine, which we completed last year, began in 2016. However, I must say that its development was extremely fast, which was also due to the use of 3D printing technology in the production of the turbine stage. Last year we launched the new PBS TJ80 engine. Considering the complexity of the development, production, assembly and testing process, I consider the parallel development of two brand new jet engines an honorable achievement.

(To be continued, part II.)

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