The global engine aftermarket is viewed as being under capacity in the mid- to long-term despite many MRO specialists seeing their engine shops currently running at full volume. At a panel discussing capacity challenges in the engine segment at Aviation Week Network’s Aero Engines Europe in Madrid on Sept. 13, panelists saw strong demand at MRO facilities for a mix of current in-service engines and new engine types entering the market.
“The market is extremely busy and tight,” said panelist Katia Diebold-Widmer, head of marketing at MTU Maintenance, which divides its business into three sectors: independent programs, OEM-affiliated partnerships and airline joint ventures. “Many shops are full—particularly the established ones—and we [MTU] are running our network at full capacity. While this is dependent on what type of programs companies are involved with, we’ve seemingly never been so busy.” Diebold-Widmer says this demand goes beyond new engine types and extends to more-mature variants, singling out demand for the CF6-80 engine due to its life-cycle being lengthened as a result of ongoing low fuel prices, along with a healthy level of shop visits for the V2500 and current- generation CFM56.
Alexander Stern, director and general manager of Lufthansa Technik and Rolls-Royce joint venture N3 Engine Overhaul Services, says the engine MRO has increasingly focused on newer engine models such as the Trent XWB for the Airbus A350. Growing at a rate of around 20% per year, he says N3 has undergone large-scale changes in terms of workscoping and technology at its facility in Arnstadt, Germany, to meet the step-up since it began operating in 2007. He foresees a big demand on engine shops preparing their network for dedicated engine campaigns, in everything from tooling to logistics. “They [engine shops] will need to be aware of these situations because engine reliability is getting better, which will mean fewer unforeseen shop visits.”
While investment by N3 into new engine platforms such as the XWB has been mirrored by companies such as UAE’s Turbine Services & Solutions Aerospace (TS&S), mature engine markets such as the Trent 700 still make for an exciting prospect. So says Ian Taylor, acting vice president for sales and commercial at TS&S. “As the world’s only independent Trent 700 shop, we are able to take engines outside of the Rolls-Royce network,” he says. “Despite having a partnership with Rolls-Royce and other prominent engine OEMs, we also pride ourselves on doing the Trent 700s independently and making use of a serviceable used market that hadn’t been there in the past.” He also cites the “crazy” growth in demand for IAE V2500 repair and overhauls, along with a steady workload on the GEnx engine for the foreseeable future.
Taylor concedes that in terms of MRO capacity there is definitely a constraint, and ponders the best future approach considering the strength of demand in the market now. “Do companies ramp up now and build more shops before they go empty four years from now? There are some interesting decisions to be made.”
With mature engines such as the CF6-80 and the PW4000 still entering engine shops rather than heading for retirement in recent years, SR Technics’ regional vice president for Europe and CIS, Klaus-Peter Leinauer, states that the trend could continue for many years, driven by low fuel prices and the availability of financing.
He confirmed that the Swiss MRO has seen a healthy number of visits for older engine types such as the CFM56-5C and the PW4000-94 in recent years at its currently at-capacity engine shop in Zurich. To capitalize on this trend, he believes MROs should give due attention to more-mature engine types. “It is an absolute must for independent providers to have solutions available for end-of-life engines,” he adds.