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RISE Up For the Sustainable Future

by Mahua Special Editor
Aziz Koleilat, Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Eastern Europe, CIS, Russia, Middle East and Turkey, GE Aviation

Aziz Koleilat, Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Eastern Europe, CIS, Russia, Middle East and Turkey, GE Aviation

How does it feel to be the propelling force behind the highly reputed aircraft propulsion system manufacturer? How did you step up to this position since your career started?

Backed by more than 100 years of innovation, GE Aviation has been powering the world’s aircraft from the earliest turbosuperchargers to today’s most powerful commercial jet engines. As pioneers of the first airplane engine “booster,” GE entered the aviation industry in 1917, making airplanes fly higher, faster, and with more efficiency than ever before.

Our development of high-performance engines that also strive to be part of the world’s decarbonization efforts speak to our core purpose: rising to the challenge of building a world that works. We are honored to play a key role in propelling the aviation industry forward, and will continue to focus on doing so in the years to come.

I started my career with GE Healthcare in 2006, and I’ve seen the company transform greatly over the years to be the organization it is today. In 2009, I took on the role of General Manager, Middle East & Pakistan for GE Healthcare, and in 2012 became President & CEO, GE Iraq & Levant, where I was responsible for growth, localization, simplification and company to country initiatives across all GE businesses for Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. Today, I am VP of Sales & Marketing, Eastern Europe, CIS, Russia, Middle East and Turkey for GE Aviation and in my role, I am responsible for ensuring we meet our customers’ needs so they can in turn fly people and goods around the world. Over the years, I have learned that with great colleagues, along the core values of with humility, focus, and transparency, there is no challenge too great to overcome.

Can you describe your style of driving the diverse portfolio of GE forward?

One thing I love about GE is that as a whole, we are more than the sum of our parts. We are a high-tech industrial company, and our technology solutions are innovative and forward looking. However, it’s the fact that we are a high-tech industrial company that works across the world’s most important sectors that is truly a differentiator. We bring power to communities, healthcare access to remote and vulnerable populations, and allow people and goods to travel to where they are needed most. While I am focused on GE Aviation in my role, I also am proud of the impact the company makes as a whole across many different industries.

GE has shown a strong presence in the Middle East region, especially in Aviation. What could be the factors that led to this achievement? How are you planning to make use of this opportunity and expand GE’s presence further?

Currently we support more than 80 airline customers in the region and along with our joint venture partners, we help to power two-thirds of all flights in the region. This includes supporting Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Saudia, Turkish Airlines, EgyptAir, Air Algérie, Royal Air Moroc, Tunisair, Pakistan International Airlines, and many others.

We seek to establish and foster long-term relationships with our customers. For instance, with Emirates we have a partnership dating back to the airline’s inception. Together, we have established a test cell and an engineering center in Al Warsan, we are currently working to implement digital solutions to support the future of flight, and we have set up an MRO facility in Dubai South to support maintenance and repairs.

We also seek to continue our legacy of innovation. GE’s 360 Foam Wash is an example. It is a ground-breaking jet engine cleaning system that can optimize the performance of GE90 and GEnx engines. In 2021, Etihad expects to realize significant fuel savings and a reduction of more than 7,000 metric tons of CO2 for Etihad’s combined GEnx-1B and GE90 engine fleets, compared to water wash methods. Royal Jordanian, Qatar Airways, Emirates and others also leverage this solution.

In short, it is our commitment to our customers and to continuing to innovate – from engines to services to digital solutions – that allows us to continue growing in this region and globally.

Sustainable future always demands sustainable energy. With our future to be relied on renewable sources, what are your strategies to cope up with the exponential rise in their demand?

Today, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have increased their focus on actions to address climate change concerns, as evidenced by the UAE and KSA pledging to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 and 2060, respectively. To achieve this effectively, it is important to leverage the region’s tremendous renewables potential together with more efficient uses of hydrogen and natural gas.

The aviation industry also has a critical role to play in decarbonization. We are currently developing the next suite of engine technologies – including open fan architectures, hybrid-electric and electric propulsion concepts, and advanced thermal management concepts – that offer the potential to achieve at least a 20% additional improvement in fuel efficiency compared today.

GE Aviation is also supporting industry initiatives to approve and adopt 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and investigating hydrogen as the zero-carbon fuel of the future. On the materials side, Ceramic Matrix Composites (CMCs) have one-third the weight and 500°F additional temperature capability versus the most advanced metal alloys. CMCs enable engines to operate at higher temperatures, helping to improve fuel efficiency.

When we look at manufacturing and production, Additive Manufacturing, or 3D printing, will only become more and more important. Already, additive has revolutionized how GE designs and manufactures engine components. 3D-printed parts are already flying in our engines today, and these parts reduce weight and enable efficient designs that cannot be generated with traditional manufacturing techniques.

Together, innovations across the board will help move the needle on decarbonization of the airline industry, contributing to the world’s overall energy transition.

The world is already paving way for zero carbon solutions. What is GE`s level of participation in developing greener alternatives to the current propulsion technologies?

In line with our commitment to sustainability, together with members of the Air Transport Action Group, we have adopted a long-term climate goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Meeting this requires the industry to come together to deploy breakthrough technologies to reduce emissions and to advocate for increased use and availability of alternative fuels, such as Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF). We have been actively involved in assessing and qualifying SAF since 2007 and work closely with SAF producers, regulators, and operators to ensure that SAF can be widely adopted for use in aviation.

GE Aviation has also embarked on multiple engine technology demonstrators to accelerate emissions-lowering technologies for aircraft propulsion. Two recent examples include the CFM RISE (Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines) Program in partnership with Safran and the Electric Powertrain Flight Demonstration project with NASA.

The pandemic has impacted every industry with blunt force, so did the same to GE. Moving ahead, what are your plans to stabilize GE and put it in a healthier path entering next decade?

The pandemic has had some impact on every industry. However, it has also pushed people, companies, and industries to work collaboratively and find long-term solutions to challenges. While we have experienced challenges last year, the Middle East’s response to the pandemic has been remarkable. Today, countries in the Middle East are focused on resilience and recovery to revitalize the aviation sector.

As a company, we remain focused on our multi-year transformation by solidifying our financial position and focusing on our industrial core; accelerating lean and decentralization; and driving long-term growth and value across our businesses. At the end of October, the GE team reported another strong quarter with orders growth, margin expansion, and significantly better overall cash performance. The Aviation business is building momentum and showing continued signs of recovery.

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