SOFIA, Bulgaria—Mixed opinions exist about airline and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) growth and capabilities in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as in Russia, executives said at Aviation Week Network’s MRO Baltics, Eastern Europe and Russia (BEER) conference here.
A bright spot comes from Wizz Air, which expects to double its fleet over the next five years, and sees opportunities for additional MRO capacity in the region, said Heiko Holm, head of technical services for the Budapest-based low-cost carrier. Wizz Air operates a fleet of Airbus A320s and A321s, and has 110 A321neos on order.
Boris Ryback, director at Infomost Consulting, believes there is aftermarket undercapacity in Russia. He said 97% of engine MRO, 70% of component maintenance and 100% of widebody aircraft overhauls leave the country.
Igor Panshin, deputy CEO for sales and planning at Engineering-The Aviation Maintenance Holding, agreed there is room for MRO expansion in Russia, because about half of the market goes outside the country. But he cautioned that seasonality and other factors need to be considered, because simply adding hangars to keep work in country is not efficient. Engineering is the managing company of two Russian MROs, S7 Engineering and Sibir Technics.
Similar to its global MRO forecast, Oliver Wyman predicted that next-generation aircraft in Eastern Europe will comprise more than half (52%) of the region’s fleet in 2027—up from 11% today, said Robbie Bourke, a principal with Cavok, a division of Oliver Wyman. This means MROs will need to ramp up for the next generation of aircraft—from training to tooling.
Panshin thinks many MROs from Eastern Europe and Russia are not on track to deliver aftermarket support capabilities for the next-generation of aircraft, such as the Airbus A350 or Boeing 787. “The OEMs are delivering the product, so MROs need to be more prepared for the future, or else we’ll have a technology gap,” Panshin said.
Bourke encouraged MROs and suppliers here to “be thinking outside of the region,” in places such as the Asia-Pacific region, where the fleet will nearly double over the period. “Developing mature value propositions for non-Eastern European operators will be a key to attracting additional business,” Bourke said. In addition, Bourke suggested that MRO providers in this region consider “tapping into some of the $456 million MRO market that is carried out in Asia-Pacific and in China.”
Ryback echoed the sentiment for Russian MROs: Russian airlines are growing, so the MRO market should as well. Given that there is “no local presence of any global MRO, that raises huge opportunity, but growing Russian providers like Engineering and others, sooner or later—hopefully sooner—will try to get European and Asian airlines as clients. That will create a situation where Russian MROs will compete again European and Asian MROs, which will definitely affect the market,” Ryback said.
Oliver Wyman data forecasts little growth in Eastern Europe, with the fleet only growing to 1,130 in 2027 from 1,144 aircraft operated in 2017 in the region. “This $3.5 billion market today will only grow 0.6% per year to $3.7 billion by 2027,” said Bourke, adding that airframe MRO in the region will basically be stagnant, because higher engine costs are driving that slight forecasted growth.