We are half way through 2018. How would you characterize this year so far for MTU Maintenance?
In one word, busy. MTU’s MRO network is operating close to capacity limits most days--last year we carried out nearly 1,000 shop visits, which was an all-time high. We still manage but things are getting tight. 2018 looks to be another peak year, with between 5-10% expected to be added in shop visits. To be prepared for this growth, we’ve needed to be sufficiently prepared by growing our network.
What are some of these expansions?
We set up EME Aero, our new 50-50 joint venture facility with Lufthansa Technik in Jasionka, Poland, which likely will be up and running in 2020. This will be a large facility covering more than 400 shop visits each year on the Pratt & Whitney GTF engine. We’re also adding a logistics building in Berlin, while adding around 50% capacity to our MTU Maintenance Zhuhai operation in China. We’re also planning two new buildings in Hanover. A long-term view is needed, as we don’t see the engine market at a peak but more in a state of development and growing upwards. Shop visits on the V2500 and the CFM56 will peak in the next two to five years, which will naturally be a big undertaking, while also during this period, the CFM LEAP and GTF engines will start ramping up. All of these effects add up and lead to a growing market.
Engine technology is evolving. Are there any specific priorities that are viewed as essential across the MRO business?
Digitalization is a trend that MROs need to support, otherwise they are simply out of the game if they don’t keep up. The amount of data coming from an engine is always multiplying and we’ve made supporting airline customers through data analysis an important part of what we do. Through this engine trend monitoring, we can give indications to the airline operations center if there are any shifts in the engine’s performance and recommend an action. Materials also are changing in engines and we must adapt our repair capabilities to the technology change that is embedded in those engines. The LEAP, for example, will come with composite ceramic materials and no one has developed repair capabilities for that yet. We need to work on that.
Do you foresee further capability or engine program additions?
We’re in the process of adding the GTF family. This started around two years ago with the PW1100G in Hanover but there will be more to come such as the PW1500 and the PW1900, which will be introduced in the next few years at EME Aero. The LEAP-X engine is also of interest and we’ve tried to get access to that market. We’re not an OEM partner so we’d have to operate independently for repairs on that engine. There’s nothing too spectacular to come over the next one to two years as there are plenty of engines to keep us busy.
MTU has strong OEM partnerships with the likes of GE Aviation and Pratt & Whitney, among others. How does working with them on a program differ from doing it independently?
Partnering on an engine program with an OEM typically means you sign up for the rules of their network and operate within their framework. On the LEAP, we are not partnering with the OEM so we are outside of the network. We don’t have to follow the rules but that doesn’t make anything easier, because abiding to OEM rules means a certain committed volume. It’s kind of a trade--while you have to follow OEM rules they will guarantee a certain amount of engines. On the LEAP, we would have to directly compete against the OEM.
More details about MTU Maintenance’s expansion activities will feature in the July issue of Inside MRO.