The aftermarket ambitions of the industry’s two largest airframe OEMs, Boeing and Airbus, have been well documented. Coming off a strong 2017, which saw Boeing record $16.5 billion in aftermarket orders and Airbus’ services unit post $3.2 billion in revenues, both manufacturers used this year’s Farnborough Airshow to unveil significant new developments in their aftermarket strategies.
Boeing, which is targeting a lofty $50 billion in aftermarket revenues over the next decade, has been busy in the segment over the past year, having launched Boeing Global Services in the summer of 2017 while moving to acquire parts distributor KLX, a transaction it expects to finalize later this year. Future activity also looks busy for
Boeing. In 2019, it will launch a joint venture with Brazil’s Embraer, comprising its commercial aircraft and services division.
New customer agreements have also become more common, and Farnborough saw the announcement of new services contracts with airlines and military customers valued at up to $2.1 billion by Boeing. Among the commercial highlights: an optimized maintenance program (OMP) for Emirates’ fleet of 150 Boeing 777-300ER, 777-200LR and 777-300 aircraft, which according to Boeing, makes it the largest 777 fleet in the world with an OMP—a program drawing on algorithmic tools to perform custom statistical analysis using the airline’s maintenance data.
European rival Airbus, like Boeing, has also been very active in services over the past year. The centerpiece was the revamping of its services division in the form of Services by Airbus, while other moves included launching the Skywise open data platform, establishing its MRO Alliance and taking full control of Malaysia’s Sepang Aircraft Engineering. At Farnborough, Airbus revealed that it aims to treble its services revenue from the $3.2 billion posted in 2017 to $10 billion over the next decade.
Unveiling its 2018-37 Global Market Forecast, which encompasses three areas of analysis based on aircraft, airline operations and the passenger experience, the largest services growth share will emanate from aircraft, Airbus predicts. Over the next 20 years, this aircraft segment will have a cumulative value of $2.2 trillion, rising from $76 billion in 2018 to more than $160 billion per year by 2037.
Airbus’ bet on data analytics—following the launch of Skywise at the 2017 Paris Air Show—is also picking up pace, according to Philippe Mhun, vice president of customer services. Speaking at Farnborough, he confirmed the Skywise customer base has since grown to 22 new customers and now includes more than 2,500 connected aircraft.
To achieve its $10 billion target, Mhun says the company will continue to develop full life-cycle integrated services for Airbus aircraft operators. Integrated services—such as its Flight Hour Services maintenance offering—will increase in efficiency due to operating with Skywise, he adds. The company also intends to extend its current service portfolio to non-Airbus platforms because, according to Mhun, 62% of the OEM’s global fleet is flown by operators with mixed fleets.
New technologies were also under the spotlight at Farnborough, one of which was the much-hyped blockchain, a technology characterized as a shared ledger that offers users a complete, time-stamped record of transactions and processes within it. Accenture has tipped blockchain among its emerging technologies to watch for two years running, and adoption is moving at a faster-than-expected pace, says John Schmidt, managing director of Accenture’s aerospace and defense business. “It’s very rare that we talk about something two years in a row, but this technology is taking off much faster than we thought it would,” he says.
Accenture data points to further industry adoption of blockchain over the next four years. A research report published by the company earlier this year, looking at 18 different industry sub-segments, shows that 86% of aerospace and defense companies expect to integrate blockchain technology into their corporate systems by 2021.
Hardware innovations also garnered attention at Farnborough. British engine giant Rolls-Royce showcased four of its robotics projects, which include remote boreblending robots enabling technicians to access an engine to repair damaged compressor blades while they are still inside. Perhaps the most eye-catching innovation was Rolls’ “swarm robots” initiative.
Developed in collaboration with Harvard University and the University of Nottingham, the project has small robots—measuring around 10 mm (0.4 in.) in diameter and resembling beetles—deployed to remote areas of the engine’s combustion chamber. Using a camera attached to the swarm-robots, a live video is then fed back to the operator, allowing a visual inspection without removing the engine from the aircraft.