TAP Maintenance & Engineering has some interesting growth opportunities as a low-labor-cost provider in a mature but substantial European market and as a participant, through its Brazilian subsidiary, in a younger, smaller but more rapidly growing Latin market.
TAP’s M&E Vice President Mário Lobato Faria notes that TAP’s engine shops in Portugal have added several new customers in the last year. These have included Aramco and Boliviana for CF6-80C2 work, Rossiya Airlines and MTU Leasing for CFM56-5s, Romania’s TAROM for CFM56-7s and Sumisho for Part M Airworthiness services. “Also in Portugal we have signed a contract with EFW, a joint venture of ST Aerospace and Airbus, in order to incorporate the newly developed sharklet modification, which constitutes a new capability of TAP Maintenance & Engineering,” Faria notes.
TAP M&E’s Brazilian shops have experienced double-digit growth with current customers and its newly acquired capabilities in components of E-Jets and ATR turboprops. The Brazilian unit is also doing more landing gear overhauls on A320s and E-Jets.
In components, TAP M&E has added 60 new part numbers to its capabilities, mainly in equipment, furnishing and landing gear. In airframes, the MRO has continued its mobility program, adding an on-line capability for registering structural damage on tablets. In engineering, TAP M&E has developed an aircraft flight-tracking functionality that increases signal frequency when abnormal operations are indicated. The company continues to improve efficiency in installing sharklets on A320-family aircraft, and its engine shops have added CF6-80E1 capabilities.
Employment has been relatively stable, with staff increasing only 1% in the last year, as major facilities have also been stable. “Though we have no new facilities in the last 12 months, we continued to invest in renewing our facilities as well as equipment and tooling in order to continue to support the new TAP fleet or A330neos and A320neo-family aircraft,” Faria says. For example, TAP M&E’s dimensional calibrations laboratory has been fitted with a clean room. This new facility has increased the laboratory’s productivity and the quality of calibrations by better control of environmental temperature and particle counts.
TAP M&E has about 1,920 employees now. The MRO is mostly looking for ways of improve efficiency and reduce costs, so there is no plan to increase overall headcount, “though we may have to grow a little in some particular areas like engines and components,” Faria acknowledges.
The company is, however, evaluating a new hangar, which would add capacity for an additional widebody and two narrowbodies. “Nothing has been decided yet,” Faria says.
Some new capacity may be necessary. In South America Faria expects to continue seeing growth in double digits, above 10%, with a tendency to slightly decline over the next five years. In Europe and Middle East, he expects more modest numbers around 2-3%
The main hurdles to achieving this growth are the familiar ones: growing competition from OEMs, investment capacity and know-how to work with new technologies. “This last one is in our hands to work on it in order to make it a competitive advantageinstead of hurdle,” Faro stresses.
In any case, the TAP M&E expects to be busy. The in-house MRO is currently retrofitting its parent airline’s cabins in 41 narrowbody and seven widebody aircraft. The cabin mod will add more seats and improve passenger comfort and connectivity. Next year, TAP will phase in the A330neo as the world launch customer for this aircraft and the A321 neo.