Airbus has made a big push into the aftermarket with its flight-hour-service (FHS) contracts and total maintenance support packages. It has had the most success in signing airlines to these programs in Asia.
More than 90% of aircraft covered under Airbus’s FHS and total support packages globally are based in Asia, says Valerie Manning, Airbus senior vice president of customer support.
There are three key reasons for this. Asia is a large market that is growing rapidly. It also is home to many start-up or small carriers that prefer to outsource aircraft maintenance rather than devote time and money to develop an in-house capability. And the region benefits from major established airlines that are opting for these services as they add new aircraft types to their fleets. They also prefer to sign up for an FHS program rather than establish an extensive in-house repair capability for new models.
Some of the aircraft parts covered under FHS and maintenance total support packages are quite large—such as elevators. The European-headquartered Airbus repairs large parts in Hamburg and Toulouse. But with so many of its customers now in Asia, the aircraft manufacturer has been working to find MRO partners in the region that can repair parts in accordance with its established standards and methodologies.
Its latest Asian MRO partner is Bangkok-based Triumph Aviation Services-Asia. Triumph says it has secured a contract from Airbus to inspect, test, repair and modify proprietary parts for the A320, A330 and A340 programs. Among the parts covered under the long-term contract are rudders, elevators, wing sharklets, flaps, slats and other structures subcontracted by Airbus, “or received directly from Asia-Pacific customers based on a collaborative marketing model,” the aircraft maker says.
Manning, who was one of the Airbus executives responsible for awarding the contract to Triumph, says several Asian companies vied for the work. Although she declined to outline specific reasons driving the choice, she says: “We know Triumph. We work with them in the U.S. They do aerostructures work in the U.S.; for example, they have been doing sharklet retrofits there. They also provide modification and retrofit work for the outer wing-box.”
As to why Thailand was chosen, Manning notes that Asia is a logical choice because “a high percentage of our customers are in Asia, so we need to do the work in Asia.”
She emphasizes that there is more to Airbus’s Asia repair strategy than signing Triumph. For instance, she points out that the aircraft maker has a major repair team stationed in Kuala Lumpur to service the region.
Manning also mentions that material services for the region come from its wholly owned subsidiary, Satair, in Singapore.
Airbus also operates Kuala Lumpur-based Sepang Aircraft Engineering, an airframe heavy maintenance facility that serves airlines across the region such as AirAsia.
As for Triumph Aviation Services-Asia contract win, the company’s aftermarket group president in Asia, John Brasch, says there are some very simple reasons that the deal makes sense. It is more cost-effective to keep the MRO work in region because the cost of shipping such large aircraft parts from Asia to Europe is very high. It is also important for Airbus to have an approved facility in Asia as part of its customer support network.
There are some other practical benefits for airlines. “It means conference calls to discuss repair jobs can be scheduled for Asian rather than European times,” says Brasch. Also, airline personnel like to visit an MRO facility at the beginning of a repair job and at the end. Having the facility in the region, rather than in Europe, saves Asian airlines an enormous amount in travel costs, he notes.
Airbus is moving tooling to Triumph’s facility in Bangkok, says Brasch. Some tooling, such as jigs, will be made in Asia to Airbus specifications. The fact that such tooling is manufactured in-region means it can be more easily maintained in the region, too.
Brasch says training is underway; some Triumph personnel are in Europe learning about Airbus’s methods and Airbus has scheduled trips for some of its European-based instructors to conduct workshops at Triumph’s Asian facilities.
Triumph employs 170 at its Bangkok facility, and the size of its workforce will increase as a result of the Airbus contract, although Brasch declines to say by how much. “It depends on the ebb and flow of the work,” he says, confirming that they have already secured some large work packages from Asian carriers under the new agreement with Airbus.