10 Aug 2017
Widebodies account for about 20% of the fleet of approximately 28,000 commercial aircraft. The next three years will herald the arrival of several new-generation widebodies, and the new engines that power them.
While some maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) shops have the maintenance and repair licensing for these developing and sunrise engines in mind, others are prioritising a stake in the teardown market for ageing engines. Maturing engines provide the most buoyant type of MRO shop visit (SV) activity, and are an attractive focus for all engine shops because it is economic for operators to optimise heavy workscopes over an engine’s service-life.
Newly entered into service (EIS) engines will typically require light work, often called a hospital visit, to overcome initial technical issues, in the first few thousand engine flight hours (EFH) onwing. Heavy SV workscopes are not a regular occurrence until the worldwide fleet has started to reach the first scheduled removal and SV, which can be in excess of six years from EIS. Meanwhile, operators of ageing or sunset engines will try to avoid the high cost of full overhaul by sourcing used, repaired or serviceable parts. Aircraft retirements have also slowed due to stabilising fuel costs, prolonging this business.
The widebody engine MRO market is built on different dynamics and demands in comparison to narrowbody engine maintenance (see Narrowbody engine MRO market, Aircraft Commerce, February/March 2017, page 47). Stronger original equipment manufacturer (OEM) relationships are apparent, so there are fewer truly independent shops. “It is important for MROs to consider the mean time between removal (MTBR) of these emerging and maturing engines,” says Richard Brown, principal at ICF. “Engines are staying on-wing for longer, and this is only set to improve with the next-gen engines. While this is great news for airlines, this naturally impacts SV activity and aftermarket requirements.
“Even as the engines start to mature, material and parts availability may differ for MRO shops. It is not uncommon now for material agreements to be in place between OEMs and airlines as part of an aircraft order. This affects profit margins for MROs during an SV,” adds Brown.
In-service widebodies are the 747, 767, 777 and 787; and the A330, A350 and A380 families. The main engine families covered in this article are: the General Electric (GE) GE90, GEnx, and CF6 families; the Rolls-Royce (RR) Trent and RB211-524 families; and the Pratt & Whitney (PW) PW4000-94, -100 and - 112 series. As of July 2017, the in-service engines from these families power almost 4,000 passenger-configured widebodies (Flight Global FleetAnalyzer).
AJW Group has established relationships with engine MRO specialists worldwide via its engine SV management service, which aims to optimise the logistics and efficiency of SV selections for its clients. “Overall, due to lower utilisations seen in the widebody engine market, there is lower demand on the widebody engine MRO shops for frequent SVs,” explains Sam Rice, director of engines at AJW Group.
“There are subsequently fewer MROs available for widebody engine types than there are for narrowbody ones. For example, there are more than 35 engine shops with CFM56-7B overhaul capability, and significantly fewer for the CF6 or GE90.” An evaluation of the widebody engine market must take into account the level of OEM aftermarket involvement, the number of MRO shops in its immediate network, the number of SVs being carried out annually, and the maturity of the engine in question.
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