The Request For Information is used as a structured method of channeling the clients questions about the product. The aircraft manufacturer’s sales team will typically consist of the Sales Director and Marketing Analyst, augmented by specialists according to the specific need, up to the point where a proposal is prepared.
The requests at this stage usually comprise a mix of technical, operational and support issues. The RFI, whilst not a contractual document, is a critical step in communicating a common set of ground rules under which the performance and economics of the aircraft under consideration may be estimated, the RFI phase is where the manufacturer and client agree on a common set of aircraft selection criteria to be used.
REQUEST FOR INFOMATION
When an RFI is issued it is recommended that a deadline for the delivery of the response be determined. Where products are available from competing manufacturers it is important for the client to encourage competition by issuing an RFI to all potential suppliers with the same questions and the same deadline.
It is sometimes the case that manufacturer responses to an RFI are not satisfactory the first time around. manufacturers can push for changes to the assumptions in order to present an aircraft in a better light. it is possible for requirements to be adjusted and revisions added to the assumptions and documentation provided. It is critical that all changes incorporated into the RFI during this phase are shared throughout the process. So, its is typical to perform at least one iteration in order to ensure that results from all the manufacturers are as accurate as possible. This phase may take several months, during which the manufacturer may make several visits to the client to submit marketing presentations and aircraft performance data.
REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL
At this stage the manufacturers should have fully answered The RFI and the client should be satisfied that data are both accurate and fair. The submission of the RFP represents the start of the full campaign, where milestones need to be set on both sides and where priorities need to be identified.
It is usual for the dialogue between the manufacturer and client to intensify during the preparation of the RFP response. Within the clients team will be the responsibility for managing the coordination of all contacts between the manufacturers and appropriate representatives. Engagement will take place at a number of levels. Working level contacts are therefore vital in order to ensure that assumptions are being correctly adhered to and that all relevant areas are being addressed. Meetings and presentations are important in order to inform decision makers of the evolving situation.
RFPs issued to the aircraft manufacturer will at minimum contain the following elements:
- Regulatory status of aircraft types
- Expected payload and range capability
- Delivery dates for firm order
- Expected aircraft utilization
- Product support requirements
- Expectations of financing support
- Guarantee requirements and remedies
- Levels of reliability
- Peripheral investments
- Expected response date
- The desired period of validity of the commercial offer
It may be the case that RFPs are sent additionally to the engine manufacturer to cover an engine support package. In this case the RFP to the engine supplier would include additional elements, such as:
- An expectation of concessions to cover initial provisioning and tooling
- Required documentation
- Guarantees to cover fuel bum, delays, and various engine parameters, such as in-flight shut down rate, shop visit rate and associated costs
- Details of an engine condition monitoring program
- Confirmation of which service bulletins are not chargeable during guarantee period
- Listing of life limited parts, warranties and costs
- Details of engine repair and overhaul requirements
Once all the responses are delivered, the clients representatives will be required to extrapolate, digest, analyse, sift and interpret the data, then compile internal material to communicate further with the owner.
Negotiations between the client and the manufacturer would start at this point. The contractual negotiations take a prominent role, aided by specialists involved in guarantees, option selection, financing, spares provisioning, and training. It is also important for the customers representatives to manage the communications with the engine manufacturers and vendors of equipment in order that negotiations take place and selections can be made.
Once the client has deliberated and extracted what is believed to be the best offer from the suppliers, a decision can be made. In the Event of a positive decision a Letter of Intent (LOI) or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) would be signed in order to secure delivery position. It is usual that a refundable deposit would be made at this point.
From when the signatures have been obtained on the contract, up to the point where the aircraft is delivered to the client. The first activity would be to organize and plan for the entry into service, specification reviews and cabin definition. A series of key conferences would be arranged to address the initial provisioning of spare parts, maintenance planning, and training and general support-related issues. Naturally the manufacturer plays a significant role in managing the timetable during this period. In the course of the 12-month period before the aircraft’s first delivery the Aircraft manufacturer would be expected to support the following deliverable's:
- Preparation and delivery of manuals and technical publications
- Development of the maintenance Planning Document
- Creation of the Minimum Equipment List (MEL)
- Determination of initial provisioning of spares, tools, and their delivery
- Organisation and execution of training for pilots, maintenance personnel and cabin crew
- Set up access to online E-Services of equipment suppliers
- Establish the warranty process.
- Install the on-site support team
Well after a sales campaign has been concluded, the manufacturer’s sales and marketing personnel maintain their involvement with the clients representatives in order to provide continuity of the relationship. The manufacturer has an interest in ensuring that deliveries are properly managed and will obviously seek further opportunities to extend the order book. Feedback from the client in terms of experience of the aircraft in operation is also a vital part of the relationship.