15 Jan 2021
Fleet decisions will ultimately have an impact on airline operating costs particularly in the aviation recovery phase. Keith Mwanalushi from AviTrader MRO speaks to Sajedah Rustom, CEO of AJW Technique and examines the market for MRO solutions amid the current shifting trends.
Over the last several months aircraft operators have been faced with the conundrum of trying to keep their fleets flying without the usual load of passengers required to maintain revenue flows. And the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have seen the rate of new deliveries fall and altered retirement thresholds. To get back in the sky following the COVID crisis, several airlines may need to pull aircraft from storage and this could place a high demand for MRO services, but clearly not all aircraft will return to service at the same time, or return at all.
Sajedah Rustom, CEO at AJW Technique comments that we expect airlines to prioritise their younger fleet, particularly their smaller aircraft as operating costs will be lower. The return of the older and larger aircraft will take a longer period and it's likely only a portion of these aircraft will be brought back into service. The majority of the effort will be at a line maintenance level, but as specific aircraft are brought back, component failures on start-up will lead to demand for exchanges to expedite the process, and an increase in demand for inspection/test and minor repair as units pull from parked aircraft are recertified to calibrate airworthiness.
“We do expect components requiring more comprehensive [and therefore expensive] repairs to be put on hold, or even scrapped and cannibalised to support lower cost repair on similar components,” says Sajedah. “Nevertheless, we at AJW monitor the market diligently with endless digital tools driven by market intelligence that allow us to forecast and align our sales and operations plan along with changes in the industry. For instance, our new product introduction roadmap at AJW Technique considers platform capacity planning into 2021 and beyond, for us to prioritise development of in-house repair capabilities to support parts that are most in demand. It is an iterative and agile process that we run in collaboration with our top loyal customers. In the last six months, despite the pandemic, we have implemented 37 new capabilities including the 787 slides programme which has seen tremendous success.”
The pandemic has widely put an end to operations of some legacy aircraft like the passenger 747, with airlines replacing these with newer generation types which is a welcome boost for aircraft OEMs and their suppliers but will surely impact the various segments of the MRO market. Sajedah agrees that the retirement of some legacy aircraft such as the 747 will have major impacts on the supply chain, including the MROs. However, similarly to OEMs and other suppliers, she says MROs will need to shift their in-house capabilities and adjust to the changing market. AJW Technique’s core capabilities are focuses mostly on narrowbody and twin-engine widebody (A330 and Boeing 767). Sajedah adds: “Whilst we expect a future reduction in overall 767 work for example, the A330 market continues to be strong. Even on the 767, we are seeing an upside in the freighter market, which will offset the reduction in the passenger fleet to some extent. So as the overall market recovers, we are well positioned to support the aircraft expected to be flying first, and do not expect to see a significant impact in the overall mix. Most of our technicians have 25 plus years of experience in the aviation market; they hold tribal knowledge that permits AJW to be flexible with any shift the market is making.
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