Ensuring safety, maximizing reliability and minimizing maintenance cost per flight-hour or seat-mile are usually the most important objectives of MRO managers. That is especially true at ultra-low-cost carriers like Spirit Airlines, which has revised its maintenance program to save money and increase efficiencies.
“This year, Spirit optimized our overall maintenance program with the philosophy to perform the right task at the right time,” says Jim Lufrano, senior manager of heavy maintenance Lufrano. This work started with the August 2018 Maintenance Planning Document Revision 45 for the AirbusA320 family, which escalated many two-year tasks to three-year tasks. “With the help of Airbus and the FAA, a good percentage of the remaining tasks were also approved to help streamline our heavy check program.”
The new program requires only one visit prior to the first structural event, whereas the previous program required two. This eliminated two heavy checks every 12-year period and will save about $500,000 per aircraft. Over eight years, the savings on Spirit’s entire fleet works out to about $19 million.
For in-house maintenance, Spirit has broken out about 80 main C check task cards into smaller intermediate-type checks. These checks will be done in Spirit’s Detroit hangar beginning in November. This work helps eliminate the ground time needed to facilitate two-year checks.
For outsourced maintenance, Spirit’s on-site team works alongside MRO managers to meet cost, span and quality goals. Spirit reps use the airline’s structural engineering, planning and supply-chain teams to ensure it has the right plan, the right parts and the right documents for the tasks at hand. The quality of operations is then monitored by Spirit’s reliability program to measure performance of every aircraft that goes through maintenance. And it uses this reliability data to continually improve its program.
In line maintenance, Spirit was able to separate its A checks into smaller, more manageable sizes. “The A check is now segmented into four separate packages,” Lufrano says. Each package requires from 2.5 to 14.5 man-hours. “This allows us to manage late-arriving aircraft, allowing them to be more easily worked before the morning departure, instead of deferring it to a later time, increasing planning efficiencies,” he says.
And Lufrano closely watches the metrics of both heavy and line maintenance. In heavy maintenance, metrics include performance against schedule, late additions to the visit, materials on dock and close-out tracking of both shifts and days. For line maintenance, key metrics include open minimum equipment list defects by tail and by span, pushed maintenance, and performance to load level. The crucial reliability data is benchmarked using Airbus’s in-service data online services program, which allows participating airlines to share operational reliability data among each other.