One of those is South America, where several of the world’s largest MROs have been establishing a presence in recent months. These include Lufthansa Technik, which is to build an airframe MRO facility in Puerto Rico; Air France KLM E&M, which has bought Barfield, a Miami-based component shop with a solid South American client list; and Delta TechOps, which this year opened a joint venture airframe facility with Aeromexico.
Latin America will receive some 1,000 additional aircraft over the next decade, taking its share of the global fleet to about 10 per cent by 2023.
Consultancy ICF International reckons that this will support annual growth in the region’s MRO sector of 6.3 per cent, driven primarily by a glut of narrowbody orders.
That should be no surprise, given that Latin America presently has almost no third-party capacity for widebody maintenance, but opinions diverge as to whether this gap can be exploited.
“In the whole of Brazil there are just 30 widebodies for 200 million people and because of that the facilities that can cope with a big operator are very limited,” observes Valter Fernandes, VP operations for TAP M&E Brazil.
On the other hand, those that are prepared to invest in new product lines could be rewarded with widebody contracts from US airlines withdrawing aircraft from increasingly costly Asian suppliers.
One provider considering a move into widebodies is El Salvador-based Aeroman, which has tripled its narrowbody overhaul capacity since 2007 to 12 lines.
“It could be an opportunity for us. It would be quite an investment in tooling and it would take more space in the hangar, so it’s a question of how much a hangar is producing per square metre,” says Aeroman chairman Ernesto Ruiz.
There is also the matter of training, one of the major challenges facing Latin American MROs as they seek to expand in the next 10 years. Importing foreign experts can help, but qualified indigenous labour remains vital if companies are to retain the cost advantages that can help secure juicy contracts from big North American carriers.
To find out more about these and other issues facing the maintenance industry in the region, read our in-depth Latin American MRO feature in the next issue (No 131) of Aircraft Technology Engineering & Maintenance.