New narrowbody and widebody aircraft types are anticipated to dominate the global fleet over the next decade while the growing role of big data in aviation would provide challenges, a new report says.
IATA’s Maintenance Cost Task Force (MCTF) has posted the published version of its fiscal 2016 report on the organization's website. The major trends spotted by MCTF authors include a rapidly increasing share of narrowbody aircraft among the fleets of the contributing 49 airlines and the expectation that new-generation aircraft such as Airbus A320neos, Boeing 737MAXs, A330neos, A350s and 787s will reach up to 58% of fleets by 2027.
The MCTF also sees a focus on operational efficiency for optimizing on-time performance and decreasing operational costs with enhanced efficiency. Digitalization of operations and big data analytics are increasing, and improving cabin interiors is becoming more important. Further, airlines are increasingly slicing heavy-maintenance work packages and often including them in line maintenance to optimize availability.
But challenges remain. The MCTF says the industry still lacks systems capable of big data analysis and must modify and update older aircraft with new technologies to avoid adding complexity to maintenance programs.
The reporting 49 airlines operated 4,468 aircraft in 2016, 90% mainline Airbus and Boeing jets. Their technical divisions spent $18.2 billion, compared with $68 billion on 25,000 aircraft for commercial aviation as a whole. Of that $18.2 billion, $15.57 billion was for direct maintenance and $2.63 billion for overhead.
Despite the emphasis on efficiency, the reporting carriers utilized aircraft on average only 7.13 hours per day in 2016, down slightly form 7.39 hours in the pre-crunch year of 2007.
Utilization also differed sharply by aircraft type. Reporting airlines flew narrowbodies 8.2 hours per day, twinjet widebodies 10.6 hours and widebodies with three or more engines 11 hours. Regional aircraft and turboprops were operated only 6.5 and 5.2 hours, respectively.
Unit spending by the reporting carriers, whose fleets skew toward larger aircraft, averaged $1,071 per flight hour, $2,637 per cycle and $3.1 million per aircraft during fiscal 2016.
Engine MRO expenditures were 41% of total spending in 2016, down slightly from 42% in 2012. The shares of component and line spending each rose 1% over the last four years, and the base maintenance share declined by 1%. The shift from base to line maintenance is consistent with slicing up work packages and doing some tasks on the line.