MONTREAL, 3 Dec. 2013. Aircraft in-service costs exceed acquisition costs, constituting roughly 70 percent of the overall costs, says Marc-Andre Duranceau, vice president of aerostructures and aircraft service at L-3 Communications MAS in Mirabel, Quebec. Maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) is an underserved market, which creates both challenges and opportunities as organizations look to extend the life cycle of aircraft, Duranceau adds.
“It is an unprecedented and interesting time,” says Amy L. Gowder, vice president of Kelly Aviation Center, a Lockheed Martin company offering MRO services. “We’re seeing record numbers of backlogs in terms of Airbus and Boeing aircraft; the age of aircraft are much younger.” In MRO, we have to innovate and think about how to better services operators, lessors, and so on, she says.
“The business models of aircraft operators are changing,” Gowder adds. “It’s no longer okay to say the engine is coming in and I want it completely overhauled; we have to tailor solutions and innovate around tight turn times. For example, they may require a leased engine to do a longer-term, customized repair. It’s no longer about offering three options—chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry—it’s now about creating a custom solution.”
Coping with obsolescence requires design expertise and to find alternative sources of supply, affirms Allan Pennycuick, director of engineering and quality at AJW Technique in Saint-Laurent, Quebec. Overcoming obsolescence issues requires partnerships, as well as knowledge and experience to weigh available options. For example, “can we harvest aircraft that we’ve torn down and use those components?” notes Pennycuick. You have to balance the level of work required, reliability and affordability of parts, etc., he says.
Gowder recommends weighing the benefit of long-term service contracts in such a dynamic market.