Last week’s news that Airbus will help in the ramp up of the maintenance, engineering and training capabilities of Taiwan-based China Airlines provides a good illustration of an OEM-airline MRO partnership in action.
As part of the memorandum of understanding, Airbus will work with China Airlines and its MRO offshoot Taiwan Aircraft Maintenance and Engineering (TAMECO) in evaluating a series of technical and business solutions aimed at developing MRO offerings on Airbus aircraft types currently operated by the airline, which include the A320, A330, A340 and A350.
Both parties will also explore and promote available retrofit, cabin and airframe modification services for the Airbus jets. On the training side, Airbus will look at the feasibility of approving the carrier’s maintenance training center as an official MRO partner, while helping with its training capabilities with ab-initio programs and mechanic courses cited.
Regional training investment is particularly seen as important in the region, with the availability of technicians with the relevant skills often pinpointed as key to enabling China’s projected MRO growth, recently estimated by Aviation Week’s Commercial Aviation Fleet & MRO Forecast to increase by 8.6% in 2017. Overall MRO spend in the country is expected to hit at least $6.5 billion this year.
While geographically significant, the cooperation would appear to provide mutual benefits for both parties. China Airlines can bolster its maintenance offerings to service its in-house fleet along with exploiting third-party opportunities. Airbus meanwhile, can grow its aftermarket presence in a key growth region and more specifically, in a country close to mainland China.
There is also the possibility for Airbus subsidiaries benefiting, with component specialist Satair named as one of the affiliates being evaluated as a potential supplier for China Airlines. It formed TAMECO at the beginning of 2015, with the airline has looking to establish itself as a player in the maintenance industry and compete with regional airline-affiliated competitors from China. The maintenance division will begin operating later this year.
As part of China Airlines’ fleet renewal strategy, the carrier will see an influx of further A350 aircraft. The widebody has been earmarked to replace its current A340 models, which have an average age of 15 years. China Airlines currently operates four A350s, with a further 10 expected in the coming years.