O&M asks airline maintenance leaders to tackle their goals, challenges and desired investment opportunities for the coming year. Edited for length and clarity.
Trevor Hughes, General Manager Commercial, Technical Operations
We’re in a very exciting and busy time for Air New Zealand. We’re due for the first of five additional-300s to arrive [the week of Dec. 20], and our airline has made a commitment to acquire 14 more . The engines get supported in Christchurch. From an engineering point of view, we clearly play a key role supporting the airline to induct those aircraft. It’s a positive challenge to have.
We’ve got two main engineering bases and a very schooled workforce [of about 2,500]. From Christchurch, we’re very focused on continuing to develop that as a very high-performing narrowbody business. We’ve developed a distribution center adjacent to the narrowbody [center] that will open formally in February. We’re also developing a 100%-owned APU business in Christchurch; we’ve just established capability down there for APUs on the A320 fleet and also on thefleet. Here in Auckland, we’re doing some investment around putting modifications into the hangar and additional pad for our new fleet.
As we go forward, we’re looking for areas of opportunity to not only grow the third-party work at the two main bases but also to look for further opportunities to develop our portfolio businesses. We’re looking at it from a commercial point of view: obviously, we’re going to keep a line of sight into making sure we get very good outcome for our airline. It comes down to looking at what would make sense to do in-house here. On other capabilities, if we can’t get the volumes in that, we’ll continue to buy those services.
Garry Copeland, Director of Engineering,
BA Engineering’s main challenge in 2011 is, as it is every year, to make sure we remain competitive and able to support the requirements of BA and a number of valued customers. We have maintained a very strong focus on competitive quality, safety and delivery for many years, and over the last few we have done a great deal of work to ensure that we are competitive on cost as well. This has made it viable and attractive to keep BA work in-house, to bring outsourced work back in, and to win third-party contracts. In an ultra-competitive industry, we can’t let up.
We have also begun to work on the opportunities and challenges that themerger brings. There are some great opportunities to grow the two businesses together.
In 2011, the main business goal with respect to the merger will be to develop the synergies with Iberia Maintenance and to define the long-term strategy for the two. We will continue to develop our joint offerings for the marketplace in order to win third-party work, while maintaining and growing our skills base at BA Engineering.
Next year, we will continue to invest in our people and our facilities. As we prepare to receive new, more technologically advanced aircraft in theand the Airbus , our Engineer of the Future program will make sure our engineers have the skills they need to fully exploit the capabilities of the new aircraft types.
We will continue with, and indeed expand, our Engineering Apprenticeship Program with a fourth college being added to the program for 2011. We plan to take approximately 120 apprentices next year.
And we will continue to invest in our facilities to make sure we are ready for the next-generation of aircraft.
Jens Bjarnason, Senior VP of Technical Services, Icelandair
Icelandair operates a relatively mature fleet of 18/ . This brings some major challenges but also provides opportunities to build on our extensive experience.
The top operational challenges are to 1) continue to improve dispatch reliability despite an increase in the average age of the fleet, and 2) maintain or even increase the measured level of passenger satisfaction with our cabin appearance and related items such as IFE reliability.
As to challenges, we aim to be profitable as a business unit and to reduce maintenance costs in our scheduled network.
And for investments, we want to purchase additional facilities at Keflavik Iceland to accommodate our increasing activities, especially the activity of our-approved design organization.
Dave Ramage, VP Technical Operations,
In order to enable us to compete effectively in the marketplace, it is imperative that we keep a tight rein on costs. Today we compare favorably with most carriers in this area, thanks in large part to a comparatively low fleet age and crewmember work productivity that is second to none.
The rate of cost growth, however, is higher than many, underscoring the importance of innovative solutions that will help us keep our edge. This does not mean lowest cost at all costs. With everything but aircraft line maintenance being outsourced, we seek out business partners whose primary focus is on safety, compliance, quality, corporate culture and flexibility. A low price for services performed is not considered a tradeoff for these fundamentals.
Boston has rapidly become a key focus city for JetBlue, and so too has our local maintenance operation. To keep pace with the ever-increasing number of flights and aircraft remaining on-station overnight, we have recently secured the use of a hangar on the field. In 2011, we will be enhancing our on-site capabilities by increasing the size of the workforce and investing in new tooling and equipment that will enable us to perform the same level of work that is carried out today at New York’s Kennedy airport, home to our largest operation. This will provide much needed relief to that station and enhanced flexibility in planning maintenance activity.
Ruy Amparo, VP Operations and MRO, TAM Airlines
We have prepared our MRO to be ready for a possible spinoff or joint venture with an industry partner. Since we will have a big change in TAM due to the Latam business [the result of the merger agreement with Chile’s], mainly on the structure of the holdings and so on, we are not allowed, for instance, to make an IPO of the MRO for now.
But we are working as a separate company, and the good news is that, in line with what is happening with the MRO business, we are seeing a good increase in the number of customers and requests for business, mainly during the fourth quarter of 2010. We had in December for the first time more customer aircraft than TAM aircraft. This is a good sign of the market.
The challenge is to accommodate new customers, so we are starting to work on aircraft that TAM does not operate, such as components for thefamily. And due to the acquisition of Pantanal Airlines [in 2009], we have and 72 capability.
Another challenge is to certify several northeast Brazil line maintenance stations under EASA 145 because Brazil is attracting a lot of tourist traffic, and we have been requested to do maintenance for them. Probably we will apply for an EASA 145 by the middle of the second semester of 2011.
We started flying777s two years ago, and the first C checks will be around August. We will be certified on the 777 and 777-300ER. I think that by 2012 we will be ready to offer the services to customers.
We will probably have a new hangar in San Carlos. We need more narrowbody capacity, and we need the ability to carry out two widebodies at a time.
Ismail Demir, Deputy Chairman of the Board and General Manager, Turkish Technic
We are going through a huge investment [of around $500 million] that means we will have huge capacity in two years. Filling that capacity will be a big challenge for us. Of course, to fill that capacity, we have to offer services that will be attractive to customers.
I believe that we cannot continue as traditional MROs. Because everyone is after cost-effectiveness, after the effective supply chain, you have to offer a variety of services bundled with different opportunities for the customer. Customers would like to have their maintenance and line operations costs minimized. Whoever can give the best answer, they will get the market.
To do that, you have to be really creative. Offering capacity is something, but offering capacity will not mean much unless you have services creatively tailored to the customer. This could include [anything] from financing to component pooling to very strong backshops and offering spares and having exchanges. What the airlines need is flexibility and service.