Forrest Gump once quipped “Life is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you're going to get.” The same can be said for the business of repairing aircraft on ground, or AOG. When the phone rings, AOG professionals never know what kind of repair they're going to get or where they're going to go—or whether customs will even let them into the country.
Composite structures have been around for decades, but the last few years have seen explosive growth in their use and development. Forthcoming jets like the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787 boast that at least half their airframes are constructed from these advanced materials, compared to with just 11% on the Boeing 777 or, to go way back, just 1% on the early 747-100. Composites have taken a foothold in large, primary structural areas—for instance, the Learjet 85 will have both its fuselage and wing built primarily from carbon composites, the first business jet to do so.
Here’s a wake-up call to the maintenance industry: More than half of all maintenance managers in a May 2010 Baines Simmons Americas survey* think their employees complete jobs despite the non-availability of specified tools or equipment. Another 16% said they believe their employees have signed off for uncompleted work due to limited time or resources. And one in 10 managers admitted their line supervisors would approve a mechanic’s actions if he didn’t follow procedures in order to get an aircraft out.
Look up, and you'll notice something new in the skies over North America -- a steadily growing fleet of Airbus aircraft. Today there are more than 900 Airbus aircraft operating here, up from just 380 in 1998. Or look at it this way: Five years ago, the European planemaker was delivering about one aircraft per month to operators across the Atlantic; today, it delivers two per week to its North American customers. Boeing-made aircraft still comprise a significant majority of the North American and worldwide fleets (see chart, p.
Growth in the component support business is a lot like the search for extraterrestrial life: many believe it's out there, but few have seen any evidence of it. Like almost every other facet of aviation, component support has experienced a sharp slowdown over the past year-and-a-half or so, but those in the business say a rebound is coming and they are investing millions of dollars in new facilities and new capabilities for when that day arrives. It may not be far off.
Year: 2020. En route from New York to Los Angeles, the condition monitoring system aboard a Boeing 737 detects an impending part failure. It alerts ground staff, who run a quick analysis of the plane's schedule over the next few days and a history of the part's performance in that specific airplane. They determine the part has six cycles remaining before failure, but opt to fix it on the ground in Los Angeles, dispatching to the gate a technician with a replacement part and the correct tools to install it.
The aerospace industry is a tough place to be right now, and it's not simply the events of Sept. 11 that have made it so. Consolidation continues; major manufacturers are signing longer-term agreements with fewer suppliers; and customers increasingly are demanding lower costs, faster turntimes and higher quality. These combine to present suppliers with a unique set of challenges, many of which were addressed at Aviation Week's Aerospace Expo 2001 held Oct. 16-18 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
One year after it took over the maintenance assets of Philippine Airlines (PAL), Lufthansa Technik Philippines (LTP) is preparing to transform the former PAL facilities at Ninoy Aquino International Airport here into a modern Airbus A330/A340 overhaul center. The facilities today remain largely unchanged since LTP opened last September, but Marc Szepan, vice president of aircraft overhaul, said there will be ``a major push'' to upgrade and modernize beginning this month [in December].
What a difference a year makes. Twelve to 18 months after the heady launches of roughly a dozen aviation e-commerce sites, all dizzy over the untapped potential of e-commerce in the aviation industry, that seemingly fertile ground is starting to look an awful lot like a battlefield. It is strewn with the now-lifeless bodies of companies such as AviationX, AviationZone.net, EverythingAircraft.com and Skyfish.com. Other companies have been bloodied in the battle for survival -- PartsBase, for instance, was struggling in August to keep its sagging stock listed on the Nasdaq.
When a dozen or so aviation e-commerce companies announced plans to launch online exchanges last year, there was concern among suppliers that prices would fall, profit margins would erode and business would become predominantly about price rather than quality and service.
There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes and the fact that if you have aircraft and ground equipment moving in close proximity to one another, eventually they're going to make contact. With the number of passengers and flights in the U.S. continuing to rise, that means more aircraft and equipment moving around the ramp and thus more potential for aircraft damage.
If you want to start some heads nodding, ask anyone in the aircraft component maintenance business whether things are tougher today than they were even as recently as two years ago. You'll get an emphatic ``yes!'' from companies of all sizes and specialties, and their reasons will read like a roller coaster blueprint: costs are up, prices are down, quality is up, turntimes are down.
Pratt&Whitney has been pushing hard to incorporate environmentally friendly manufacturing and repair processes throughout its engine businesses. The OEM has been working on ways to eliminate hazardous materials from its engines for 10 to 15 years, but formalized the initiative in mid-1999. Most of the ``green'' processes developed so far are being used on the manufacturing side, but ultimately they'll be shifted to the repair side and in some cases that shift has already occurred.
The aircraft engine component repair business these days is not for the faint of heart. Heightened customer expectations and aggressive competition from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are forcing companies -- OEMs included -- to find ways to decrease turntimes, lengthen part life cycles, lower prices and bolster customer service. Businesses also are developing new technologies to repair parts that even a year ago routinely were replaced when damaged.
Picture this: You've just hired a new maintenance technician right out of A&P school and he has the knowledge and hands-on skills to quickly become productive maintaining large commercial aircraft. What's more, his certification meets FAA, JAA and Transport Canada requirements.
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