There have been challenges in the development of the new helmet, but we're making great progress in resolving those. We're trying to do something that has never been done before. This helmet includes a head-up display (HUD) within the helmet–there is no HUD on the airplane. Until we got into the dynamics of how the human mind interacts with the helmet, we didn't understand some of these parameters. The big lesson learned is we should have been doing earlier risk management, risk reduction and technology demonstration. This is the most 'Buck Rogers' thing I've ever seen. It integrates the digital camera system on the airplane and provides pilots with really great situational capability.
What about the commercial aircraft market in China?
We're well positioned in China to capture very strong market share as [western OEMs] sell into those markets. We're also positioning ourselves on future programs. We're on Comac's ARJ21 and C919. I don't see those fueling top-line growth in the near term, but they are progressing and are committed to the aerospace industry. We want a share of that opportunity.
Stanley Chao, a U.S. consultant who advises companies doing business in China, wrote a Viewpoint for Aviation Week in which he predicted the C919 will be a flop and that Western suppliers investing in it will be sorely disappointed.
If his measure of success is that [the C919] will stand toe-to-toe with the 737 MAX, I might understand his perspective. The Chinese are very much looking for Western suppliers for this equipment. Their focus on [the C919] is around the civil certification of an airplane. They're figuring out how to do high-level systems work. Do I believe we've seen the last of the delays of these programs? No. We understand that and take that into account. We're not taking huge investment risks on these programs. In many cases we've formed ventures or partnerships. If the C919 is unsuccessful, it's not going to be catastrophic for our company.
But we can't just sit and watch this evolve. China has an indigenous market, a lot of money and a stated desire. We don't want to be on the outside of that. There were a lot of people betting against Airbus in its early days.
How long will it take before China moves forward with development of a widebody jet?
I don't' know whether they will focus on a widebody next or business aviation. There's going to be a huge market for business aviation once the airspace in China opens up and that may be where they head.
How do you view the overall business aviation market?