Block or phase: unpicking airlines’ MRO gameplans

In the early 2000s a new concept called equalised maintenance was developed by SR Technics in cooperation with Airbus and easyJet, whose A320 fleet the Swiss MRO had just won a long-term, $1bn, full-support contract for.

Also known as “E-checks”, the concept combines the tasks of A- and C-checks into a schedule of 36 work packages – usually performed overnight – intended to cut A320 downtime by 17 days over six years.

Unfortunately, as easyJet’s fleet aged it became trickier to stick to a rigid schedule of short, frequent checks, and last year there were reports that the budget airline wanted to move back to block maintenance. Whether it does so will become clear this year, when a glut of easyJet maintenance work is up for grabs.

April’s comprehensive component support deal with AJW was “the first stage of a programme to re-tender easyJet’s engineering and maintenance contracts worth more than £200m [$300m] annually”, according to easyJet COO Warwick Brady.

But what of other airlines?

While easyJet remains the only one to have fully committed to E-Checks, others have adopted elements of equalised maintenance.

German carrier airberlin flies A330s, A320s and Q400 turboprops. For the widebodies its MRO department – airberlin technik – veers towards equalised work to maximise the utility of the aircraft’s ground time, while the narrowbodies receive a combination of block checks and maintenance phased into their overnight stops.

Lufthansa Technik reports that many of its clients have also adapted their maintenance programmes.

“The tendency is to use more flexible schedules with smaller work packages, and this trend is supported by aircraft manufacturers, which are removing letter checks step by step from their source-documentation,” says Jens Botzum, project manager of maintenance programmes at Lufthansa Technik.

But in the US conventional programmes still seem to hold sway.

“You will see some phase check maintenance programmes with selected operators, but it’s not very common,” comments Troy Jonas, VP global sales and marketing, aircraft and engineering Services, at AAR.

For an in-depth look at the future of maintenance planning see the coming issue of ATE&M.

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