The MRO Business Is More Complicated Than It Needs To Be

If we were to step back and look at MRO logically and holistically, would we structure it as it is now? Probably not.

If we were to step back and look at MRO logically—and holistically—would we structure it as it is now? Probably not.

Individual airlines, maintenance facilities, engine test cells and backshops can streamline processes and insert technologies to make MRO functions more efficient, but obstructions hold us back.

For instance, look at the contract language—can you protect your company but do so without adding verbiage that prevents you from getting to a deal quicker?

Audits serve a very useful purpose, but do companies need to undergo dozens each year to ensure quality systems? At some point do we need to enhance quality—rather than audit it?

How much advantage is actually gained by having each airline tailor standard maintenance programs to its “unique” operations? Or asked another way, by optimizing reliability through a customized program, how much lower are costs than those under a standardized maintenance program? (I’m anticipating some airline wrath from this one, but it’s important to understand the tradeoff.)

Perhaps these are utopian questions, but let’s tackle a big one: regulatory harmonization—beyond bilaterals.

Think of the advantages that could stem from harmonization.

For instance, national regulatory systems continue to develop their own aircraft technical requirements that add substantial costs when transferring aircraft across borders. This lack of harmonization does not enhance safety. While industry organizations such as the Aviation Working Group, ICAO and IATA are working on harmonizing some of the cross-border transferability and airworthiness issues, there are multiple layers to tackle and not one unified plan.

“The result is a significant amount of maintenance being re-performed to satisfy the new lessee requirements, which costs the old lessee and the lessor,” says David Marcontell, TeamSAI president and COO, with whom I spoke at the Aeronautical Repair Station Association’s Strategic Leadership Conference in Montreal Oct. 16.

ARSA, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary, does a terrific job of advocating for repair stations and assisting them in differentiating between regulatory compliance and business demands.

Part of the impediment is education, so ARSA is developing an online regulatory compliance training program to assist the industry—and eventually it plans to “establish the world aviation regulatory compliance schematic, because we have to figure out a way for all these countries that need MRO services to use any organization in the world without unnecessary expenditures of either time or money,” says Sarah MacLeod, the association’s executive director.

Actions such as these would make MRO a less-complicated business. Let’s take more holistic steps. 

A version of this article appears in the November 3/10 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology.

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