Aero Engine Centre.jpg Aero Engine Centre

Fast 5: British Independent Gains LEAP-1A Approval

James Cook, CEO of UK engine MRO specialist Aero Engine Centre, talks to James Pozzi about a new certification at its facility near Heathrow Airport and finding the necessary skills to expand its workforce.

Aero Engine Centre has achieved LEAP-1A approval. What is the significance of this?

We are among the first independents to achieve LEAP-1A approval in Europe. This greatly helps our business objective, which since setting up Aero Engine Centre (AEC) around three years ago, has always been to place ourselves at the forefront of the engine industry with regards to engine bearings and technology. Specifically, this capability will cover end-of-lease checks and areas such as component replacement.

What did the certification process entail?

In summer 2017, we placed our engineers on a LEAP-1A training course which was held at our Heathrow facility. Given we had a LEAP engine in storage at the engine shop, we were also able to undertake practical work there. From thereon in, investments were made in acquiring the necessary tooling. Over a period of four to five months of regular consultation with CFM International, we also obtained the technical publications for the engine.

Given AEC now has LEAP-1A status, are there any designs of getting LEAP-1B capabilities?

Now there is a strong relationship with the engine OEM, we’d also like to undertake training for the LEAP-1B engine also. To my knowledge, there is no independent Part 147 training school offering 1-B training so we will again do this through the OEM.

Over the next decade, the LEAP engine variants are expected to generate large portions of MRO market spend. Where do you see AEC fitting into this market long-term?

We’re undertaking a growth strategy around this market by bringing the LEAP skill into the business and expanding the technical workforce. However, sometimes finding the right skills can be difficult, particularly for younger talent. There’s definitely a skills gap but also a lot of competition in the market, both from other aviation companies and other industries such as finance. AEC is a relatively small and young business but we are being proactive in the workforce area - we’re planning to undertake an apprenticeship program soon.

What is the status of AEC’s other engine approvals?

We also hold CFM56 family and CF6 engine capabilities. Specifically, demand for CFM56-7 engine MRO will be particularly buoyant over the next five to 10 years with many of these engines having been flying on-wing for long periods of time. Having been very organic in our growth over the past three years, now there exists a genuine opportunity to increase the turnover of engines coming through the facility.

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