Chris Dare, managing director of Monarch Aircraft Engineering. Monarch Airlines
Chris Dare, managing director of Monarch Aircraft Engineering.

Boeing-Linked MRO Gears Up For Incoming 737 MAX 8s

Chris Dare, managing director of the Monarch Group’s maintenance arm, Monarch Aircraft Engineering (MAEL), discusses the benefits of being associated with an airline, its participation in Boeing’s GoldCare program and how it is preparing for the Boeing 737 MAX 8 introduction.

As part of the Monarch Group, what are the advantages of being an MRO associated with an airline?

From an MRO perspective, we benefit massively from this association. When you are maintaining aircraft for an airline that is part of the same group, but have the mentality of treating them as a third-party customer, you are well placed to understand better than most what an aircraft-on-ground situation means, along with the impact of an aircraft coming out late and the potential knock-ons of that. If there is an overrun due to a structural issue, the next week I will be told of the impact of that aircraft coming out late and any potential costs from the operations teams. It makes us more focused on getting aircraft out on time, because we understand the implications probably a bit more than a stand-alone maintenance company. Whatever we learn from our own airline, we apply back across the third-party customer base.

What are some of the key elements of MAEL’s maintenance strategy? 

From a base maintenance point of view, it’s about making the checks as efficient as possible. This involves doing the preplanning in advance, looking at trying to sort check packs eight weeks out, doing necessary planning to ensure parts are available and scheduling the right number of engineers. For line maintenance, it is as much about efficiency, but also about getting the aircraft out on time. Everything we do in line maintenance is focused around ensuring that from an engineering perspective, we have done everything we can to get the aircraft away on time. On both the Part M and technical services side, there is more of a balance. Coming from our own airline, we have learned how to better manage airworthiness and about navigating lease conditions, due to dealings with the growing number of airlines leasing aircraft.

Looking specifically at the Monarch fleet, how is the maintenance and engineering business gearing up for introduction of the 737 MAX 8 from 2018? 

There is a groupwide project covering introduction of the MAX aircraft, and we have got our own elements of that covering everything from e-enablement to maintenance. We are working quite closely with Boeing on what the requirements are, what tooling is needed, and we have started a training program for engineers, which also helps with our third-party work. As we push through 2017, the plan will be rolled out across the business in supplies, logistics and onto the line and base teams.

In 2015, MAEL signed a two-year agreement to provide GoldCare services from Copenhagen. How has this worked out, and how has it benefited the company? 

Copenhagen has proved a great experience for us. We have got a number of staff from the UK working in Denmark ,and we have managed to build up a base of engineers with great experience on the Boeing 787. As an airline operator that does not have 787s, we’re in a fairly unique position by having engineers with great levels of experience on the aircraft. The GoldCare program itself is critical to us as an MRO going forward. In terms of benefiting us, the Boeing requirements for being a GoldCare partner are high, and that has driven us to change some of the ways we work and driven a higher standard. Some of the requirements for turnaround are higher than we were working to before, and adjusting to these levels has set us in good stead.

Credit: Monarch Airlines

What do you look for in other companies, such as a supplier or a logistics provider?

While the commercial side is always a given, it is as much about a cultural fit and finding companies that understand the way MAEL works. I don’t view any of our current suppliers as simply suppliers; instead they are viewed more as an extension of our permanent teams. We do work with them so that they understand what our key drivers are, what our key business aims are for that year, and how they might be able to help. A great benefit of fostering this close working relationship is establishing further opportunities that might not have been previously identified.

As well as managing director, you are also MAEL’s chief information officer. In terms of new technologies and software, where has MAEL earmarked investment?

MAEL is halfway through a fairly major upgrade of its AMOS system, which will likely go live around April. We have also upgraded all the computers in our hangars to ensure they are much quicker. We also are running a couple of programs around mobile devices in a line maintenance environment. We are trying to use smaller devices that are easier to handle for the engineers. That has just come out of a concept stage and will be piloted in a couple of line stations over the next three months. This will grow further in 2017 and into 2018. It’s all about driving efficiency and improving turnaround times for third-party customers.

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