Printed headline: Parts!
When we’re finalizing the pages of this magazine, sometimes an unintended theme emerges as a thread in various articles. They stick out when I read the whole issue as a package and hit me as an “ah ha” moment.
The unintended one that jumped out this time is parts—specifically, the array of options, which for limited-supply or long-lead-time parts, is critical.
For instance, as mature engines stay on wing longer and are going through shop visits that people didn’t predict, demand for supply-constrained parts can be a challenge. This is exacerbated by operators who are seeking used serviceable material (USM) to smartly match work scopes with life-cycle plans—at the same time fewer teardowns are happening.
Take the V2500 and CFM56 engines, which have large installed fleets and shop visits that are still years ahead. “Although some engines from this family have already been flying 20 years and are being retired, the sheer size of the fleets and volume of shop visits continuing to be seen up to the peaks in the next five years mean that demand for USM is strong,” says Patrick Holzkamp, MTU Maintenance’s head of purchasing engines and used parts.
He cites life-limited parts with enough greentime as being most in demand, and for CFM56 engines, “there is an increase in interest in full modules with greentime, so that module swaps can be performed,” he says. “This affects the CFM56 in particular, because of the differing cycle limits of the modules. High-pressure turbine and high-pressure compressor airfoils are also usually in high demand.”
The challenges of a limited supply of used parts has led companies to introduce USM offerings, such as Liebherr Aerospace’s announcement in July, or establish dedicated businesses for it, such as Delta Material Services.
Airlines with the right in-house resources can take matters into their own hands and pursue the owner-operator produced parts (OOPP) path, as long as they can prove that the new part meets the requirements of the certified one. As this article points out, American Airlines uses OOPP for airframe, engines and components.
In the Viewpoint, Jonathan Berger floats the idea that engine OEMs should consider leveraging PMAs for engine parts. Subcontracting spare parts production could eliminate some of the bottleneck for engine parts, he argues.
And while the article on how artificial intelligence is being used to improve MRO efficiencies doesn’t exactly address parts demand, it shows how AI is improving troubleshooting and the accuracy of assigning maintenance issues to correct ATA chapter codes, improving first-time fix rates as well as reducing no-fault founds. All these improvements via AI mean less downtime for parts, and hence more availability. So I think it’s fair to say AI is having a positive impact on parts options.