The sale on Honeywell’s GoDirect Trade aviation marketplace is a harbinger that aerospace is ready for more ecommerce. “This kind of sale sends a signal,” GoDirect General Manager Lisa Butters says.

It’s still too soon to tell if a new marketplace launched by Honeywell Aerospace earlier this year will move a stodgy aerospace industry into an era of full-scale B2B ecommerce.

But  GoDirect Trade, a new B2B aviation marketplace Honeywell Aerospace launched in December as an ecommerce site for the $4 billion market for aerospace parts, is beginning to generate some traction—and, for the first time, sell an entire jet engine online, says Honeywell GoDirect Trade general manager Lisa Butters.

Honeywell Aerospace, the $14 billion arm of Honeywell International Inc. that makes and maintains a wide range of parts for fixed-wing and rotary aircraft, borrowed some ecommerce lessons from arts and crafts marketplace Etsy.com and motor vehicle research site CarFax.com to launch a GoDirect Trade. In the first three months of business, available inventory on the marketplace is about 2,000 aviation parts that sell in prices ranging from about $1,200 to $120,000, Butters says.

Aerospace is ready for more ecommerce

But late last week Honeywell Aerospace generated its biggest transaction yet—the online sale of a $100,000 engine off of a Learjet in Great Britain that Honeywell and a parts refurbishing contractor are harvesting for parts. The fact that an online buyer would place an order for an entire jet engine is a harbinger that the aerospace industry is ready for a lot more ecommerce, Butters says. “It was actually a buyer with a Gmail account—he was a parts broker who was using it on a private individual’s aircraft,” Butters says. “It (the engine)  went on a 1984 IAI aircraft—we keep people flying.”

Normally it takes six months and much paper shuffling, phone calls and lots of back-and-forth negotiating between a parts seller and a buyer to sell a refurbished or about-to-be-refurbished jet engine, Butters says.

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Under that traditional method, the engine first must be removed from the plane, inspected, documented and then put into a manual- and paper-based sales cycle. Meanwhile, the jet engine is stored and then the product listing—with all available documentation such as part schematics, pictures, engine operating history, product warranty, and inspection reports, among others—is handled by an aviation parts broker, dealer or other authorized resellers.

Jet engine sells online within days of listing

GoDirect Trade says it was able to sell the $100,000 used jet engine online in just a matter of days because all of the required documentation and related paperwork was available for review on the marketplace.

A typical jet retired from active flying and being stripped for parts normally yields as many as 1,200 or 1,300 parts that, once refurnished, inspected and documented, ultimately wind up for resale, Honeywell says. Each part is meticulously listed into a master ledger as it is stripped from the plane.

GoDirect Trade was able to speed up the online buying cycle by using a form of blockchain technology to link the master ledger from each out-of-service and retired plane it was harvesting for parts into the Honeywell products database and ecommerce platform.

“Up until now there has been very little ecommerce in the aerospace industry and not much product or price transparency,” Butters says. “The fact that someone bought a jet engine online signals that buyers are ready—ecommerce enables a buying and selling process that used to take months can now be done in a few minutes.”

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The GoDirect Trade website now features discounts on some aerospace parts as much as 95% off. Future ecommerce development plans call for a new feature to be added later this year that lets buyers, once they’ve purchased a used part, research and find a repair facility.

Also in the works is a plan to list parts of planes still in service but about to be retired. “The process of listing parts after disassembling an aircraft traditionally takes about six months, but why should a potential buyer have to wait?” Butters says. “Imagine ‘parts harvesting’–listing parts for sale (on reserve) while an aircraft is still in service. It’s closer than you’d think.”

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