Working on next-generation aircraft types is essential for MRO businesses but also presents them with some challenges, according to an executive with Hong Kong-based maintenance giant HAECO.
HAECO has already conducted C-checks on 10 Boeing 787s, said Patrick Wong, executive GM for airframe services and material management. These aircraft belong to customers Jetstar, Royal Brunei and United Airlines, Wong said during Aviation Week's MRO East Asia conference.
The company also provides line maintenance for several 787 operators as well as the Airbus A350. While HAECO has not yet confirmed any heavy maintenance customers for the A350, it is "working on that" and will eventually provide these services for the aircraft, said Wong. The company's largest customer Cathay Pacific has recently begun receiving A350s.
Early entry into the 787 maintenance market was one of HAECO's strategies, said Wong. He admits it is "difficult to make money" from the 787 and A350 programs at this stage because maintenance volume is still so low. However, MRO operators "can't stay away from them," he said.
Another early problem was a difficulty in gaining priority with Airbus and Boeing for training and maintenance equipment required for the new types, said Wong. This is because independent MRO operators are not aircraft customers like the airlines. HAECO has partly addressed this problem by introducing 787 training programs itself. The company has recently installed a 787 computer simulation training suite at its Xiamen, China facility.
It has also been hard to get essential on-the-job training for maintenance workers on the new types, Wong said. Because HAECO does not have its own fleet, it has to rely on its customers to allow it access to their fleets during down times. Wong estimates that at any time around 8% of his staff are involved in training.