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Fast 5: Virgin Atlantic Looks to Limit Trent 1000 Supply Chain Impact

Virgin Atlantic's 2018 saw highly publicized issues with its Boeing 787 fleet. Phil Wardlaw, vice president of engineering and maintenance services at the UK airline, talks to James Pozzi about how it has addressed these problems while updating on plans to grow its day-to-day operation.

Virgin Atlantic has been looking to make its maintenance operations more lean in the past few years. Have these efforts been successful?

We have been successful in driving efficiencies in our maintenance operation and adapting our team’s resources around the Virgin Atlantic operation. However, due to the well documented Trent 1000 supply chain issues, we have needed to supplement our teams with additional contractor resources to react to this situation and also to allow us to supplement our fleet with the four additional A330-200 aircraft that entered into service with us earlier in 2018.

How is Virgin Atlantic's IT systems integration panning out? In an interview with Inside MRO in September 2017, it was expected to take around 18 months.

Early 2019 will see us enter the MRO IT systems evaluation phase of our program. We will evaluate all the major system providers prior to making a decision on the way forward. At this point we will then look to design the best system architecture to suit Virgin Atlantic’s scope of operations.

As mentioned, earlier this year Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 787 aircraft encountered problems with their Trent 1000 engines, which resulted in the grounding of aircraft. How quickly did this resolve itself, and what are some of the implications going forward with this?

The Trent 1000 supply chain issue is still ongoing. The implications of this during 2018 has been the introduction of the additional A330-200 aircraft mentioned earlier. We reacted quickly to supplement our fleet with these aircraft and have now reconfigured these additional aircraft with new upper class and premium seats while carrying out a cabin refresh. I’m also pleased to say, we are already receiving great customer feedback on the reconfiguration of these aircraft. Implications of the Trent 1000 supply chain issues continue into 2019 and we are working closely with Rolls-Royce to ensure we limit the impact of this issue as far as possible.

Virgin Atlantic was looking at attracting more talent into its ranks. Have its targets been met this year in terms of technician intakes?

We have met our targets on recruitment. In addition, we are in the second year of our new apprenticeship program, with the latest set of recruits undertaking their basic training prior to returning for the remainder of their apprenticeship working alongside our engineering and maintenance teams at Heathrow and Gatwick. In addition, our new graduate program, relaunched in 2017, sees our graduate engineers entering their second year of the program, and we look forward to welcoming them full time into our development teams later in 2019.

Virgin operates line maintenance facilities in London Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport, Manchester Airport as well as overseas in Johannesburg, Barbados and at New York John F. Kennedy International Airport. Do you foresee further expansions to Virgin-operated line stations to coincide with fleet growth?

Increasing Virgin-operated line stations remains a consideration. It’s very much a matter of whether the circumstances of a particular line station make this the right option for our operation.

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