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Airlines Seek Technical, Not Just Economic Gains From PMAs

American Airlines among the carriers turning to PMAs in search of product improvements and lead time reductions for OEM parts.

The 2019 Annual Conference of the Modification and Replacement Parts Association (MARPA) highlighted some important trends in airline use of PMA parts, according to president Jason Dickstein.

First, American Airlines vice president for technical services Craig Barton said cost savings are no longer the primary reason for choosing PMAs. Barton said American increasingly chooses PMAs because they can offer product improvements and cut the long lead times required for OEM parts. In addition, American feels better parts mean higher reliability for airline operations.

Barton told conference attendees that airline mechanics touch aircraft every night and thus develop performance and reliability data in real time. This puts airline engineers in an ideal position to judge the quality of parts.

One challenge in the past for PMAs has been that only major carriers had sufficient engineering staff that could evaluate PMA options confidently. Smaller carriers were more dependent on OEM parts for that reason. Dickstein says that limit is lifting as regional and smaller airlines use engineers at outside consultants such as Sheffield Aerospace to do the configuration management required for PMA use. Also, major carriers such as Delta Air Lines are helping their smaller alliance partners understand and benefit from PMAs.

PMA progress outside the U.S. continues to be very uneven. In Asia, penetration of U.S. PMAs varies strongly by country and even over time. For example, Dickstein recalls that PMAs were popular in Japan quite a few year ago, then their popularity waned but now seems to be recovering.

In Latin America Copa Airlines has been a leader in use of PMAs and has also been a model of a well-managed Latin carrier. Dickstein hopes some of Copa’s reputation and example will rub off on other Latin airlines that have been less eager to use PMAs.

The MARPA exec says it is still too early to judge the effects of the IATA-CFM agreement on alternatives to OEM parts. He points out that the agreement has two kinds of effect: first, the actual changes in contracts and rules agreed to; and second, a marketing effect announcing that PMAs are becoming more acceptable to the industry.

Dickstein emphasizes that PMA-makers have complicated relationships with OEMs, competing sometimes, partnering in other cases and sometimes being acquired by the larger companies. Engine OEMs still seem unenthusiastic about the suggestion of Alton Aviation consultant Jonathan Berger that they use PMA production to relieve current supply-chain stresses in engine markets. But Dickstein says that airframe OEMs have been behaving differently, seeking out partners at MARPA conferences to support their older aircraft types.

And Barton’s emphasis on the non-price advantages of PMAs is beginning to be widely recognized. About 60 delegates from 20 airlines attended the MARPA conference and held a separate committee meeting on reliability and other technical issues related to PMA use.

TAGS: Components
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