How are Mobile Engine Services different than classic on-wing offerings?
For starters, the goal of Mobile Engine Services is to optimize flight cycles and the engine’s utilization. Low-pressure compressors (LPC), high-pressure turbines (HPT) and low-pressure turbines (LPT) have different limits on the life-limited parts. Our approach is that when only an LPC or only an LPT has to be overhauled and the core is still good, we isolate the part and service only that, which maximize the life of the part and saves cash. We do that work at Mobile Engine Services shops in Tulsa (Oklahoma), Montreal, Frankfurt and Shenzen, China. We basically swap the module, which saves the engine having to be sent to Hamburg for an overhaul.
If operators have a spare module, such as an LPT--which larger airlines usually have--we would initially swap the modules and then overhaul the module that we took off. Then we just perform an on-wing test: there is no legal requirement to do it in the test cell. If the operator doesn’t have a spare module, we remove the module and overhaul it. However, Mobile Engine Service is more than just swapping modules: Lufthansa Technik also performs complex workscopes such as HPT blade replacement, VSV bushing replacement, high-pressure compressor top case repairs, and many more to avoid having to send the engine for a major overhaul.
What are the cost savings from this approach?
You can easily save millions of dollars from not having to transport the whole engine, and if you only overhaul the LPT, for instance, and you’re not looking at the rest of engine, you can save a few more million because you don’t repair what you don’t see.
You have four Mobile Engine Service centers. Are you thinking about adding any others?
There are other stations we’re considering. We see the potential and the market demand for additional capacity exists.
What trends are you see in North America?
Mobile Engine Service is something we’ve been doing in Frankfurt for the last 10-12 years. It was born as a side product and has really grown in Europe. At some point in time, we thought, why not bring this across the ocean? It turns out there was a demand. About five years ago, we started with our first three mechanics in Montreal, and we now have about 40. We have about 50 in Tulsa, as well. That shows the sheer demand. One of the biggest obstacles is to convince operators about this new alternative to overhauling engines. Usually as the first step we’ll do a simple replacement. The next time we might do an HPT blade, which requires us to open the core. As the next step, we might replace a whole module. It’s a learning process and for some it’s still a new concept.
There’s a long lead-time on several high-demand engine parts. Is this effecting your turnaround time?
On the one side, all of those modules that we aren’t looking at aren’t affected—as they would be if the engine was in for a shop visit. For parts that count as a shop visit, there we face similar parts shortages issues, as well--even though the parts that are having shortages usually don’t affect the modules we are overhauling. For example, HPT blade replacements: we’ll replace with new blades most of the time. We’re more concerned with shop capacity shortage than the parts shortage and that is exactly why we’re doing Mobile Engine Services. We only have an infinite amount of capacity for engine overhaul. And whether we induct an engine for LPT replacement or whether we do a performance restoration on the core, ultimately, it takes the same amount of space but it doesn’t bring in the same revenue. So, we are only taking engines into the shop that need the full overhaul.