At a recent Japan Aerospace Exposition, the U.S’s Modification and Replacement Parts Association polled a gathering of execs from three Japanese airlines, ANA, Japan Airlines and Skymark, and researchers from Tokyo’s Industrial Technology Research Institute on use of PMAs. More than half, 58% of participants, said they use PMAs, 21% said they did not, and 21% did not know whether they did or not. The rough poll showed the perception of PMAs, explains MARPA President Jason Dickstein. “Some people think their airline does not use PMAs, even when it does.”
The Japanese carriers use FAA- and EASA-approved PMAs, mostly the former. A lack of trust prevents Japanese use of PMAs approved by Chinese authorities, and Dickstein says some Chinese carriers do not trust Chinese PMAs either.
When MARPA polled Japanese attendees on why they used western PMAs, the top-two answers were lower costs and better reliability. Dickstein was a bit surprised that the respondents were familiar enough with PMAs to realize these could, through better design, often improve on reliability of OEM parts.
Documentation might be one hurdle to wider PMA use in Japan. The Japanese Civil Aviation Bureau is not as draconian as it sometimes sounds, but JCAB may require documentation for PMAs at Japanese carriers that can be tougher than is customary in the U.S. Large aircraft come from the U.S. or Europe, and bilateral agreements required a certain level of documentation, but JCAB can ask for more.
But the only real hurdle to wider use of PMAs reported by the polled Japanese execs was restrictions in lease contracts. Dickstein argues that the very strict prohibitions on PMAs are mostly characteristic of the largest lessors. He says smaller lessors are less restrictive, as a competitive strategy, although they may not wish to announce this competitive policy. And he believes airlines like Delta Air Lines and its Star-Alliance partner Copa Airlines are beginning to resist these lease restrictions.
As for the underlying reason for lease restrictions, Dickstein calls it, “three-way finger pointing, the lessors blame the airlines, and the airlines blame the distributors, and no one admits they are the source of the inhibition.” He would like to see some incentive for PMA use, perhaps the sharing of cost and reliability gains. “The leasing companies might be given a cut of the maintenance savings from PMAs, perhaps 10% of these savings.”
In any case, Dickstein predicts the Japanese will be increasing their use of PMAs in the future.