Jim Sokol, HAECO Americas president of MRO Services, discloses why the MRO is dropping line maintenance in the Americas and details the status of a new widebody hangar on the sidelines of the ARSA Strategic Leadership Conference in Montreal.
Why did HAECO Americas decide to exit line maintenance?
Sokol: When we look at how our business has involved from TIMCO to HAECO, TIMCO had to reach into customers more broadly, because it didn’t have as much recognition. The services that we were providing--through Brice Seats, cabin solutions, integration linked into MRO--line services was a good fit because it allowed us to get our products out there and get exposure to more customers. As we have evolved into the HAECO brand, we have a much broader approach and it has allowed us to understand how we’re driving the business directionally: cabin solutions, integration and airframe maintenance. Line maintenance fits really well in Asia. But directly within the Americas, it’s been more of a challenge. We are now focused on our MRO business and applying the necessary resources to do it most effectively. Line maintenance has been a good part of success in the past but in the future it doesn’t strategically fit. It comes down to economics: it’s a tough business to run, it has a lot of risk and it requires a lot of touches. The good news is that we can offer our employees jobs within our network and we have taken care of our customers to make sure they transition correctly. We will retain touch labor for line maintenance in Greensboro (North Caroline) for Delta because it’s tied directly into our facilities and it’s complimentary. It comes down to being really good at airframe MRO, cabin solutions, integration work and unfortunately, line maintenance didn’t fit with that.
What’s happening with Hangar 5 in Greensboro?
It’s an exciting opportunity. We are part of a company that is investing in our future and we’re adding capacity for widebodies, based on customer requests. The widebody fleet is changing and we’re seeing more customers fly north to south—and they’re look to us as a North American solution. We don’t see that we’d be competing with HAECO’s Asian network, because strategically it makes sense to have work in Xiamen and in Hong Kong if aircraft are transiting through those locations. If the aircraft are coming out of South or North America, it makes sense to have a solution for them directly in the U.S., and for us that’s Greensboro. It will be a big hangar—accommodating up to two 777Xs or 10 narrowbodies, which could produce about 1 million labor hours.
When will it open?
We’re scheduled to have it online January 2018.
Which widebodies are you targeting?
We are looking to provide whatever capabilities our customers require. We’re trying to line up our strategies around the request for purchase that are being issued from some big airlines such as Air Canada, American and United—and all of the widebodies based in North America. We’re seeing some responses for 787s, 777s and 767s. Those are the main ones, including the A330 and long term, the A350. We also want to continue being really good at narrowbody support. If you look at the narrowbodies, they comprise about 70% of the North American market. Our hangar will be unique in that it will allow us to flex capacity—so we can go from a narrowbody to widebody gauge without upsetting any infrastructure. The things that we will build into the hangar will allow us to be efficient are at the subfloor level--everything comes up from the floor—so we can have electricity, air, things that are necessary to support maintenance but don’t really restrict the floorplan of the building.
What’s the investment in Hangar 5? You don’t you have a launch customer?
It’s $60 million, from the construction to the tooling necessary to get it up and running. We are actively pursuing lot of RFPs—we’re not just building it on a whim. We are trying to align RFPs with customers—but it’s 1.5 years out, and they don’t announce that early. When we look at our business right now, our capacity is full.