Fast Five TAP ME Looks To Increased Mobility.jpg TAP Portugal

Fast Five: TAP M&E Eyes Mobility Increase

With new aircraft entering the airline fleet and third party work accounting for around 25%, TAP's maintenance and engineering division is looking at new technologies and processes to further aid its busy operation. Mário Lobato de Faria, the airline MRO's EVP maintenance and engineering, talks to James Pozzi about the division's crucial role across two continents.

TAP Maintenance & Engineering (TAP M&E) is one of Europe’s most established airline maintenance divisions. It also has a firm presence in Brazil and across the Latin America region. Do you see the latter region, and its opportunities, increasingly generating more focus for TAP?

In recent years we’ve been increasing our focus in our activity in Brazil since it’s a growing market and this has assisted a growth in our results. Aside from airframe work, much of our focus is being put on component maintenance. This is due to the capacity shortage in this market and the known problems with customs that affects everything from cost and turnaround times when using outside providers. One issue is the constant currency fluctuations of Brazilian Real vs U.S. Dollars, which is a kind of a rollercoaster affecting the required predictability for investment.

Based on current and future demand, do your current facilities in Portugal and Brazil hold sufficient capacity?

In our three hangar facility in Lisbon, we’ve taken into consideration TAP’s fleet growth and the increased wing span on future Airbus A330-900, we expect capacity problems. With this in mind, we are evaluating the possibility of increasing current capacity for the future, although we are quite limited in space.

TAP conducts sharklet retrofits first on its own aircraft followed by a Comlux-operated ACJ319 aircraft in September 2016. Has any similar work of this nature been carried out since?

We signed an agreement with Elbe Flugzeugwerke a few years ago and through them we modified five A320 aircraft so far. This year we have a firm order for one more aircraft. Before the Comlux work we had already carried out similar modifications on several TAP aircraft. We believe that we are currently the best MRO in the world to provide this service where we put a lot of engineering and technology into the process.

What new technologies are being explored to improve efficiencies across the maintenance operation?

We are currently looking into different sorts of increasing mobility, in the sense that we look to our mechanics as surgeons: we want tools and information to flow to them instead the other way around. This isn’t a new approach but finding new ways to improve the concept and technology is key to this goal. Another theme is predictive maintenance: TAP is coordinating one of the several programs supported by EU under Horizon 2020 and we are in a collaborative and learning mode. Having this role on the project allows us to have a good understanding of the subject and we believe that we’ll be able to benefit from this knowledge at the right moment. Drones will be under evaluation beginning of next month and we are also evaluating new methods of planning material away from traditional rules. One additional value is that through these processes we improve our own innovation and organizational culture. This means that we cooperate more leading to better understanding other people’s needs.

What are some of TAP’s key goals in 2018?

2018 will be quite an exciting year for us. We’ll phase-in our first A320 and A321neo aircraft and we’ll be the launch customer worldwide of A330-900neo. We’ve been working quite hard to be ready for this, in order to guarantee a smooth entry-into-service. There will be a bigger focus on the passenger travel experience and this is driving several projects throughout the airline. The M&E division will play a big part in this not only through the retrofit program but increasing focus on the cabin quality. Growing without affecting our output of excellence and keeping costs competitive are part of this quite challenging menu for this year. We also want to consolidate the growth of third party work that we had last year, which has accounted for around 25% over the past five years.

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