Paris Air Show 2019 Paris Air Show TV

Collaboration Dominates Paris MRO Dealings

Boeing bags first-of-its-kind Airbus A320 support contract.

Aftermarket news never takes center stage at aerospace’s annual premier exhibition, and this year’s Paris Air Show was no exception. Even factoring in a relatively modest intake of 400 firm orders by air-transport manufacturers, the aftermarket space was quiet—at least in terms of headline-grabbing deals. What noise was made came largely via new service offerings and partnerships between providers seeking scale to meet demand.

“In our view, there was less focus on services, especially from both Airbus and Boeing,” Canaccord Genuity analyst Ken Herbert writes in a post-show wrap-up. “However, that does not mask the view that activity levels in the commercial aftermarket remain very strong.”

A budding partnership announced at the show between Air France Industries KLM Engineering & Maintenance (AFI KLM E&M) and the Triumph Group is one example of how providers are teaming up to create scale. The initial focus will be on servicing and supporting nacelles and aerostructures on newer-generation aircraft, including the Airbus A320neo and A350 and Boeing 737 MAX. The companies said in the joint announcement they envision a “wide-ranging scope,” suggesting other components and services could be in play.

“Airlines are looking for integrators and integrated solutions that are both global and local,” says Bill Kircher, Triumph executive vice president of product support. “This strategic partnership is all about the customer.”

Among the deal’s potential key benefits is leveraging complementary footprints to create a global network. Triumph has aerostructures repair capability in North America and Asia, thanks to its Arkansas and Chonburi, Thailand, facilities. AFI KLM has a similar presence both in Europe and the Middle East. “All of a sudden, our customers have a shop, no matter where they are flying,” Kircher says.

Other deals saw existing vendor-customer relationships broaden. Ethiopian Airlines and Collins Aerospace are teaming to expand the airline’s already sizable services business while helping the avionics supplier gain a foothold in a region primed for growth.

Also announced at the show, the agreement is written to support Ethiopian’s establishment of repair capabilities on several Collins-supplied de Havilland Dash 8-400 components. The airline, which already provides Dash 8-400 airframe and propeller maintenance, plans to support its own fleet and offer services to other operators of the former Bombardier turboprop. Collins will use the shop to support African customers as well.

“When you look at premier airlines in the world, many of them are saying, ‘What do we want ourselves to look like in the future?’” Ajay Agrawal, president of Collins aftermarket services tells Aviation Week. “Many of them are looking for a strategic local capability.”

Africa remains the smallest International Air Transport Association (IATA) market, but it is among the fastest-growing. The latest IATA outlook forecasts Africa’s passenger growth at a 4.6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2037, trailing only the Asia-Pacific region.

The partnership is expected to ramp up quickly. Collins soon will provide Ethiopian with required technical data and tooling, clearing the way for work to begin this year.

Collins, looking to the future in another region, also unveiled a new “innovation hub” in Singapore intended to develop advanced MRO and additive manufacturing (AM) capabilities. The 15,000-ft.2  facility, set to open in early 2020, will be Collins’ fourth AM lab and the first outside of the U.S. It also will be Collins’ first AM facility with titanium capability, and it will feature prototyping, development, tooling and ultimately low-rate production of additive materials.

“We’re experiencing tremendous growth and transformation in aerospace globally, and we are focused on innovation in order to remain at the forefront of advanced methods and materials for maintenance, repair and overhaul solutions,” Agrawal says.

Meanwhile, long-time component and system supplier Hutchinson is eyeing the aftermarket as a growth opportunity through the launch of its Aerospace Services (HAS) business unit. The company plans to target OEM and airline customers by providing a wide range of aftermarket services through HAS’ network of service centers, which are in Europe, Asia and the U.S.

“The aerospace aftermarket is worth billions per year for the next 20 years. In 2028, there will be almost 40,000 aircraft flying, and they [will] need maintenance. They [will] need aftermarket services,” explains Norbert Langlois, HAS executive vice president. “We want to be part of this business, and the beauty of it is that the market is so big that if you do things with added value—if you bring something to the market—you’ll get the business.”

Langlois believes HAS will draw customers through its technical expertise backed by parent company Hutchinson’s robustness within industrial markets such as aerospace, automotive and defense. The new company plans to focus on three main segments, all of which are expected to benefit from Hutchinson expertise in airframes, cabins and engines.

Within engines and airframes, Hutchinson has a large presence in composites through its subsidiary Composite Industrie, which the new aftermarket business plans to leverage for engine cold sections and airframe components. In addition to capabilities within engine buildup, thermal and acoustic management, fire testing and nondestructive testing, HAS is seeking Part 21J qualification to design and manufacture its own parts for airlines.

“This is our road map. Obviously, it’s not going to happen overnight,” says Langlois. The company hopes to have the business unit, including new facilities in Toulouse and Burbank, California, and a possible U.S. East Coast location, operating by late 2021.

While the order pace was slow across the board, Paris did see major MRO contracts. CFM tacked a long-term services agreement on the back of a massive order from India’s IndiGo, covering 280 Airbus A320neos and A321neos. The airline was a Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan customer, so the move not only adds a huge customer for the GE-Safran joint venture, but it takes one away from its narrowbody-powerplant rival.

Boeing signed a notable deal with British Airways to provide component support for the UK flag carrier’s A320 fleet. The first deal of its kind for Boeing will see it work with suppliers to own, manage and maintain a global exchange inventory of parts for the airline’s A320s and A320neos.

British Airways parent International Airlines Group (IAG) also signed the biggest aircraft deal of the show—an intent to purchase for 200 737 MAXs.

The move from the nearly all-Airbus-narrowbody airline group caught many off guard, as the MAX remains grounded in the wake of two fatal accidents within five months while Boeing works to modify the aircraft’s flight-control software. The A320 MRO deal—which was not announced as being linked to the MAX order—means Boeing will profit from IAG’s narrowbody operations for years, even if the MAX order is not finalized. 

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