Few African carriers have their own MRO centres. What is the reason for the limited MRO activity in Africa?
The reason for the limited MRO activity in Africa is mainly due to the small fleet size of most African airlines. The average fleet size across the continent is less than 10 aircraft and this does not provide a critical mass to justify most airlines individually investing in capital-intensive MRO activities. Hence, the African airlines with key MRO activities have reasonably-sized fleets.
What aftermarket needs do African carriers have? What untapped needs exist?
Areas that need addressing include spare parts provisioning, materials management, component maintenance, refurbishment and conversion of aircraft cabin interiors, and, in some countries, even wheel and break overhaul and repair capabilities remain a challenge.There is also a need for more well-trained aviation personnel, with skill sets ranging from technical, to operational, to management.
What is the biggest challenge facing African aviation operators and MROs?
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing African operators and MROs is insufficient co-operation. I would like to see increased co-operation between African airlines, especially in respect of joint ventures, interlining, code-sharing, joint training, joint MRO and joint spares provisioning. There is also ample room for increased co-operation between MROs in Africa which could see the emergence of MRO centres of excellence in specific areas, rather than each MRO trying to provide every service.
You have been described as one of Africa’s greatest exports to the aviation world. What are your hopes for Africa’s aeronautical future?
I established African Aviation in 1990 with the raison d’être of promoting aviation development in Africa and still believe that aviation is a vital catalyst for Africa’s economic and social advancement. Much has been achieved, but much more remains to be accomplished. The improvement in aviation safety in Africa and modernization of African airline fleets with state-of-the-art aircraft are two major achievements. Increased intra-Africa connectivity is the next goal.
It is likely that aircraft OEMs from China, Japan and Russia will make in-roads into Africa over the next two decades. Their aircraft are likely to be more attractively priced and will have similar capabilities as western aircraft. However, will they be able to provide comparable operational and technical support as that provided by western OEMs?
In future, most new aircraft delivered to Africa are likely to be provided on operating leases because the balance sheets of many African airlines are not strong enough to support direct aircraft financing. This will increase the need for efficient MRO services in Africa to protect aircraft asset values and will also require meticulous aircraft maintenance record-keeping.