Airline execs respond to questions about how their fleet’s MRO needs will change over the next few years and what innovations they’re looking for from the aftermarket.
Alain Bassil, COO, Air France
Fleet: From an operator’s point of view, fleet aftermarket needs will increasingly focus on aircraft availability in operations, cabin environment and cost effectiveness. To constantly adapt an operator’s network due to business constraints while targeting high operation integrity will, more than ever, require high availability of aircraft and components. It means supporting an operator’s specific needs in terms of stations and main base support to provide the appropriate material and team at the right time and in the right place. Cabin environment and service . . . will increasingly create differentiation—so skills and knowledge in maintaining high standards for the passenger environment are a must. Last but not least, extensive competition between operators and the resulting difficulties on yields will not allow for past yearly cost increases, especially on components and engine parts. An efficient aftermarket support should be able to optimize parts-suppliers’ costs, for instance, through alternative sourcing and/or repairs development. In a nutshell, this means that the aftermarket will need to increasingly shift from a supplier-type relationship into building medium/long-term partnerships based on operations knowledge, flexibility, and ability to match operator’s costs targets.
Innovations: [Operators] should bring advantages in various areas such as:
--Efficient and reactive information sharing on aircraft/components and engines status to allow faster diagnostics through ACARS data monitoring, Wi-Fi data sharing on the ground with aircraft recorders, component RFID and more. This should minimize ground-time troubleshooting and further develop preventive maintenance and feed reliability improvement initiatives.
--Improved processes in terms of traceability or maintenance tasks, such as taking benefit from components’ RFID information and using drones for better and faster airframe inspections.
--Parts manufacturing and repair costs/delays through new technologies such as 3-D printers.
Gary Smith, Head Powerplant and Fleet Transition, EasyJet
Fleet: We have two key influencing factors affecting our aftermarket activity—fleet age and fleet size. Our inherent requirements will not change dramatically but we will have more maintenance events coming due and a growing fleet—so coupled together, this brings a significant increase in demand. However, the world fleet is maturing, so the availability of components, repair schemes and alternative solutions is increasing. Together with the additional maintenance capacity being developed, we expect to remain able to change and redesign our maintenance supply solutions.
Innovations: What we are looking for is that our suppliers/partners demonstrate systems and processes that bring innovations in their service to the market and that they approach our business with an innovative mindset. We expect them to show a track record of delivering new services, equipment, and software, and generally have a culture that aligns with ours and has innovation at its heart.
If a supplier came to us and said, “If you sign up we will do something innovative,” I’d be very concerned that this wouldn’t be delivered.
Obviously, we know that there are certain opportunities with drones, remote inspections, scanning, prognostics that are already beyond the concept stage, and suppliers should show an understanding of these and what might be next. However, equally important is that they demonstrate service innovations.
Geir Steiro, COO, Norwegian Air
Fleet: We are continuously phasing aircraft in and out—as we renew our fleet and phase out older aircraft. Our fleet will continue to grow because we are adding a large number of new aircraft. Regarding maintenance, we do not see any specific changes in maintenance requirements for aircraft/engines, other than as modified in regards to the age of the aircraft fleet. As we are only phasing in new aircraft, we have no major interior modifications planned. All 737s are equipped with Row 44 Wi-Fi as they join the fleet.
Innovations: We wish MRO providers would be able to change and adapt their products and deliveries to meet Norwegian’s changing needs. MRO providers must therefore constantly stay at the forefront and offer cost-effective products that can optimize our changing needs. Digitization, simplicity and cost effectiveness are the key words here.
Mick Hickey, COO, Ryanair
Fleet: Increasing use of digital data and changes in ATC communications requirements will drive a need for cost-effective retrofit solutions from aftermarket providers that can be installed on the aircraft quickly and with minimal operational disruption.
Innovations: We are looking for innovations that will allow us to increase reliability, lower costs, increase efficiencies and more accurately predict component failures before they occur.
Gallery See the Top 10 Western European scheduled airlines by fleet size: AviationWeek.com/Top10MROsWestEurope