While it is unclear how the two Malaysian Airlines tragedies in 2014 could drive the aviation industry to tackle airspace-monitoring and flight-tracking issues—which could lead to aircraft modifications, longer-term—we are betting on the following near-term trends for 2015.
The ADS-B “Out” mandate deadline is 2020 but pressure to find equipment and upgrade slots starts now.
Engine OEMs will continue to broaden their aftermarket service options and gain market share—including services for mature products that independent shops usually could count on—as they offer more used material, customized packages, predictive maintenance tools and even power-by-the-hour agreements specifically designed for sunsetting powerplants.
Four-engine aircraft such as the Rolls-Royce Trent 500-powered Airbus A340 continue to feel heat due to operating costs and residual value concerns. Rolls’s traditional aftermarket approach is under pressure.
Aircraft and engine teardowns will continue to increase the use of serviceable material. But as long as fuel prices remain low, airlines will leverage used airframes to satisfy near-term demand, which increases especially for narrowbodies.
Innovative carriers such as EasyJet invest in new technologies to lower maintenance costs. The U.K. low-cost carrier, for instance, is looking at using unmanned aerial systems to inspect aircraft for exterior damage, and developed the BladeFix app to better balance blades during swaps and repairs.
Consumables Management & Component Repair
As MRO bundles grow bigger and providers forge plans to go deeper, consumables and component repair garner more attention.
Use of wireless in MRO—from digital data-loading to connecting technicians to engineering—gains traction and aids aftermarket operational efficiency.
Heavy maintenance for widebody aircraft picks up in the U.S. as labor rates in Asia climb and fuel costs drop.
Supply Chain Risks
Airlines continue to be vulnerable and risk disruptions to their MRO operations beyond the Tier One level. Only 15% of airline executives know where their primary aftermarket supply chain risks are, according to a DHL survey, and that could be exacerbated by supplier consolidation.
Increased technology and capital costs to support next-generation aircraft, OEMs’ more dominant position in the aftermarket and the need for scale drive more joint ventures and partnerships—sometimes between traditional rivals. Logistics plays a role in this, too.
A version of this article appears in the December 29, 2014-January 14, 2015 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology.