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Singapore Airlines Tackles MRO Challenges In Its Global Network

Singapore Airlines' Senior Vice President of Engineering Lau Hwa Peng talks about how the airline’s fleet growth is impacting maintenance planning.

Printed headline: Singapore Airlines

Lau Hwa Peng, Singapore Airlines’ senior vice president of engineering, details how the carrier takes on issues in the global airline industry.

With SIA’s fleet and network rapidly expanding, how is the airline keeping up with the maintenance requirements?

Singapore Airlines operates to 63 destinations worldwide, with a passenger fleet comprising over 120 aircraft. Our modern and fuel-efficient fleet will continue to expand as we take delivery of Airbus A350-900s, Boeing 777-9s and 787-10s. We regularly review our network and fleet plans to match demand for services in our various markets, and we are aware that a bigger aircraft fleet means an increase in overall maintenance requirements.

We continuously engage our maintenance, repair and overhaul providers and technical handling agents (THA) to ensure there are sufficient resources to keep up with SIA’s maintenance requirements. We have also made significant investments in predictive maintenance to streamline and optimize our fleet maintenance. In collaboration with OEMs, this data-driven predictive maintenance approach allows us to enhance aircraft reliability and flight punctuality.

Has maintenance cost risen?

We are unable to provide specific details regarding maintenance cost due to commercial sensitivity. However, we can share that maintenance cost will rise with an expanded aircraft fleet. As an organization, we have embarked on a multiyear transformation program aimed at identifying new revenue-generation and cost initiatives. In today’s dynamic and competitive business environment, we continue to remain in full compliance with mandatory fleet maintenance requirements. We have also made significant investments in our digital transformation and innovations to stay ahead of the competition and to keep maintenance cost low.

How is SIA tackling manpower shortages and rising costs?

In identifying opportunities to position ourselves for growth, we leave no stone unturned as part of our transformation program review. This program covers new revenue-generation programs, operational enhancements and organizational structure, and reviewing opportunities to improve our processes to make us more effective and efficient. We also look at rebasing our cost structure so that we can be a lot more competitive moving forward.

As part of this transformation exercise, we acknowledge that staff will have to pick up new skills. We continue to look at how best to support training and redeployment as needed. In addition, we have reorganized our structure within the engineering division to streamline work processes so as to remain agile and nimble in our operations.

What sort of new technologies is SIA embarking on in the areas of MRO?

We have four predictive maintenance solutions that we have developed with OEMs and local institutions that have been tested and deployed. The predictive maintenance models are receiving real operational data and generating output on the risk of failure. We continuously work with our OEMs and local institutions on predictive maintenance project candidates to improve aircraft dispatch reliability and on-time performance.

How is the airline tackling the Boeing 787 engine issues? Similarly, with the 737 MAX grounded, how has the SIA Group tackled the change in maintenance scheduling versus capacity requirements?

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) published an airworthiness directive (AD) relating to Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 TEN engines that power Boeing 787s, and the SIA Group is in full compliance with it. Prior to its issuance, the SIA Group had proactively inspected all the Trent 1000 TEN engines on Singapore Airlines’ 787-10s, as well as those on Scoot’s 787-8 and 787-9 aircraft. The SIA Group will continue to work closely with Rolls-Royce and the relevant authorities for any additional follow-up actions and precautionary measures that may be required.

In view of the ongoing suspension from service of SilkAir’s Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet, arrangements have been made to replace flights previously operated by the MAX with another aircraft type. As of March 12, 2019, all six MAX aircraft have been grounded in Singapore and will not be returned to service until further notice. Our 17 Boeing 737-800NGs are not affected. SilkAir is in close communication with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and Changi Airport Group to manage the effects of flight disruptions.

While virtually all flights are to overseas destinations, are you pleased with the various line maintenance contracts overseas?

We are in regular discussions with our overseas THAs and conduct regular audits at our overseas stations to ensure there are sufficient resources to keep up with SIA’s maintenance requirements. We also have overseas maintenance managers on-site at strategic stations to oversee daily maintenance operations.

Will you be seeking new contracts anytime soon?

SIA continues to review contracts on a regular basis.

Does all MRO work go to SIAEC?

SIA’s primary maintenance provider is SIA Engineering Co. (SIAEC). SIA also leverages the multitude of capabilities in Singapore—and OEM shops around the world—to supplement SIAEC’s capacity with our growing fleet and increased cabin retrofit requirements.

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