The first commercial flights of Airbus’ new twin-engined widebody will not happen for months, but the major MROs are already vying for a piece of the maintenance market.
In the past 24 hours, Lufthansa Technik (LHT) and Air France Industries-KLM Engineering & Maintenance (AFI KLM E&M) have thrown their hats into the ring, declaring themselves ready and waiting to provide MRO services on the A350, less than a week after the -900 received certification from EASA.
Both firms claim that their experience in maintaining the A380 and 787 has helped them in developing support programmes for the aircraft which boasts the highest proportion of composite materials yet to be seen on a commercial jet, new engines and technologically advanced avionics systems.
LHT has confirmed it sees IT management as a particular focus for MRO services on the A350: “The aircraft and its maintenance systems are much more cross-linked than those of previous aircraft generations,” it states.
As airline MROs both LHT and AFI KLM E&M also have the advantage of being A350 customers, with the groups having firm orders for 25 aircraft a piece – Lufthansa’s are due to enter into service in 2016 and Air France’s in 2018.
LHT says this relationship with the OEM has enabled its engineers to work with Airbus since 2008, contributing through customer focus groups on elements of the aircraft’s design, as well as maintenance considerations and flight operations.
Meanwhile, AFI KLM E&M confirms it is working with Airbus, Rolls-Royce and the component OEMs to develop its engineering programme.
Supporting a new aircraft platform involves an enormous investment in equipment and training, as well as beating off increasing competition from the OEMs, so it’s no wonder that MROs are already advertising their services, even before the operators are tendering for them.
One thing is for sure, if the timing and tone of LHT and AFI KML E&M’s announcements are anything to go by, it looks like there is going to be tough race to win a slice of the A350 maintenance pie.