Ray Weiser interview: “The glass is always half full”
Earlier this year, Raymond Weiser Jr was promoted to senior director of helicopter services for JSSI.
JSSI is a consumer of MRO services and offers an independent option to the OEM for hourly cost maintenance programs. They are a financial company that provides tip-to-tail solutions for airframes, engines, and avionics.
The company has, contrary to the struggling market, focused further in on the helicopter market. This started with the appointment of Weiser in 2014 as its helicopter programme specialist.
Since JSSI appointed Weiser, the company’s portfolio has increased from single digits to 34%. Since he began working at the company at a down point in the helicopter market, he has seen the market gradually improve every year.
“The glass is always half full,” Weiser told Helicopter Investor. Now this positive view of the future of the helicopter market has taken hold, with many MROs, lessors and financiers looking at the gradual emergence of China as a market and the slow recovery of oil and gas as a good sign.
At Helitech 2017, we sat down with Weiser to ask a few questions about the market, what it’s like for an MRO now and the future of JSSI.
How is business?
The last seven months have been positive. The slow recovery of the oil and gas market is very good for our business and there are a lot of machines that have been parked for a long time that are getting back into service – this is very encouraging to see.
Three years ago, we started to really concentrate our focus on helicopter services. Now 34% of the JSSI portfolio is helicopters; this is up from single digits when I started at the company. We have assembled quite a nice team – we have just added a technical advisor in the UK and we are about to announce our newest helicopter sales representative in the UK.
Talking of the UK, the market there has been very good to us this year. The US is still where most of the work is but it’s good to see growth in less established areas.
The biggest obstacle we have faced in the helicopter programme is letting the industry know that we are here and informing them that there is an alternative to the OEM maintenance programmes. We can deliver everything an OEM can and some unique services they cannot.
We have a global presence as opposed to being refined to a territory. This is a big positive.
When you get a JSSI programme, unlike an OEM where you pay and a representative will appear when something’s wrong, JSSI assigns a team to your aircraft to make sure things are running smoothly.
In this team you have a client relationship manager. They handle the day-to-day managing of the client. If a problem arises, a technical advisor steps in and takes care of the parts you need or gets the aircraft to a service centre.
We also have product line specialists. We would send a Pratt and Whitney expert that has countless years of experience and knows the nuances of the engine and the problem areas and we help to deliver the most economical results for that client.
What markets have you seen growth in?
We have had good success in China this year and South America has had a nice rebound in oil and gas. We do work with a lot of the major lessors and the benefit there is that they place their products over the world. Through those relationships, we could have an opportunity in Australia today and one in South Africa tomorrow.
Speaking of South Africa, we have seen a nice influx of business in Africa as a whole this year. I guess oil and gas must be turning around there.
We have one SAR client in Africa but the rest is in oil and gas. Mineral exploration is the bulk of the work out there.
What’s the future for JSSI in China?
I think the future is bright. The most important thing to us, again, is to get our name out there and let them know who we are and what we offer. The biggest restrictions in China continue to be the regulatory authorities. Whilst the market has opened to an extent, it is certainly not like doing business in the UK or US. It is still restrictive.
How are the more stable markets at the moment?
Things are going well in the US as we are aligned with so many different categories. We are in the utility business, the charter business, in EMS, law enforcement etc. The platform is very diverse in that sense. Utility sees ups and downs depending on what is going on, ie when a number of forest fires happen etc. Law enforcement and EMS are very steady platforms.
EMS and law enforcement is where we have the most consistent business. Bad guys will do what they do regardless of anything and, unfortunately, people will continue to be injured so there is always a demand for those markets. These markets are a constant revenue stream.
What markets are you looking to grow in?
We are certainly looking to grow more in the EMS and law enforcement markets, but the biggest hope is that the oil and gas market continues to recover. That is a driving factor in everyone’s business in helicopters right now.
Do you think regulatory concerns will be a significant hindrance going forward when businesses are breaking into China?
Absolutely. These barriers still need to come down. We are seeing some very large aircraft orderbooks in the region and that is great but whether those orderbooks translate into actual deliveries is a different matter. There are restrictions on where you can go, how far in advance you need to file a flight plan etc. It’s inconvenient but, as those barriers continue to fall, it is going to be a great market.
In the major cities infrastructure is a concern. The heliport capacity needs to be expanded. But the great thing about a helicopter is that they have the ability to go anywhere. Looking at places like Sao Palo. You have around 230 helicopter landing pads, meaning a great infrastructure. I think a similar model would bode well for China.
How competitive is the maintenance market at the moment?
In general, the market is very competitive for maintenance services and we purchase these services. We are a very big purchaser of MRO services so, for us, we have an incredibly large spend every year and are highly courted by the different MRO providers and that’s a good position to be in.
Regarding the maintenance market in China, the infrastructure needs to be developed. MRO providers are starting to emerge, but it is still behind the rest of the world.
Are people looking towards South America?
There are so many things working against South America, such as the poor economy of several countries, the oil and gas industry slow recovery etc, which make it a tough market and it will remain so for a few years.
Are we more hopeful six months into 2017 than at the start?
I was one of the people who voted positively at your conference. For me, the glass is always half full. Having attended the Helicopter Investor London conference for the last four years, I think 2017 was the most optimistic year and I think other people feel the same.
I think the market is heading in the right direction. Oil and gas needs to continue to get better. I don’t think it will ever reach $100 a barrel again but it is heading in the right direction. However, the issues with oil and gas has created a unique refocusing. Oil and gas companies have demanded a refocus on tighter margins, lessors and OEMs are sharpening their pencils, and JSSI are doing the same. It is a correction of the market and it didn’t fall upon one part of the market but rather the market as a whole.
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