A version of this article appears in the September 8 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology.
Ryanair expects to increase its C check intervals from the current 22 months to three years by the end of 2014, as well as opening a third maintenance facility. Speaking to AW&ST, Michael Hickey, group director of operations, said the only hurdle remaining was regulatory.
“It’s a two-stage process. We’re quite near the end of the first stage where we work with Boeing to assess all the [maintenance] work carried out. On a task-by-task basis, we have to be able to justify why some tasks can be escalated. That involves a huge amount of data and it has meant that we’ve had to de-escalate some tasks, but overall the program has been working well.
“The second phase is to work with the aviation authorities to explain what we’re doing and to get their acceptance of that process. Only then would we be able to roll that out across the fleet.”
On top of this ambitious target, Hickey is also working on establishing a third MRO facility within Europe, on top of those already in Prestwick, Scotland, and Kaunas, Lithuania.
“At Prestwick we have a five-bay facility and we’ve added an additional two-bay facility at Kaunas. The first bay in Kaunas opened in January 2013 and we were so impressed with the success of that operation we opened a second one in January this year.
“We’re looking around at a couple of options for further expansion. The first is to add bays in Lithuania, the second is to expand elsewhere in Europe. When you look at it from a logistical perspective it makes no sense to have them all [geographically] together; it’s better to spread them all over. So we’re looking further afield, and we’re well progressed with plans for a third facility elsewhere. That decision will also be made before the end of this year.”
While engines still go to the original equipment manufacturer—in this case General Electric—Hickey says the model for the facilities will remain the same; Ryanair owns the facility itself, but the actual services, exclusive to Ryanair, are provided by a local company. Although, he admits, the names of the joint ventures “aren’t very exciting.”
“In Prestwick it’s Prestwick Aircraft Maintenance Services and in Kaunas it’s Kaunas Aircraft Maintenance Services. They’re a bit boring. Still, the advantage to using local companies is that they’re already working within the regulatory framework of their local authorities, so it will be easier for them to manage and supply the labor, and to obtain all the local approvals,” says Hickey.
Nonetheless, setting up such an operation requires long-term planning: “We have to look three or four years down the line from a planning perspective, especially to get experienced people out on site. We’re looking way ahead now. If we don’t, we’ve lost our edge.”