The market for widebody airframe MRO services has grown at a slightly higher rate than the market for the same work on narrowbody aircraft since last year. While 0.6% growth occurred in the narrowbody sector, 2% growth was recorded in the widebody airframe MRO market, based on analysis of data culled from Aviation Week's MRO Prospector database by analysts at TeamSAI.

Looking ahead, the Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 will generate the lion's share of widebody C checks and heavy maintenance visits or HMVs (for definitions, see box on pg. 30), but MRO providers should keep an eye on several other types predicted to create significant business the next two years.

The rate of expansion of widebody airframe MRO last year outpaced that of the narrowbody market, although the total value of the widebody market is less. In 2011, the value of the widebody airframe MRO market increased from $3.6 billion to $3.7 billion, according to MRO Prospector data. Widebody airframe MRO currently comprises about 42% of the total airframe MRO market, which, based on November figures, is worth $8.8 billion. Engine MRO comprises the largest portion of widebody maintenance expenditures, with airframe services making up about 19% of the total market for overall widebody MRO, which is worth nearly $20 million.

The widebody airframe MRO market, like the market for narrowbodies, seems to have largely recovered from the depths of the economic recession. The market's value in 2011 fell slightly behind that in 2010, which saw a 2.5% increase, but remained strong compared with market value in 2009, when it contracted by 11.5%.

However, widebody fleet growth has not kept pace with TeamSAI analysts' expectations. In 2011, widebody numbers “lagged behind what we might have expected,” they note. The global widebody fleet grew at only 1.5% in the first 11 months of last year, a net gain of 66 aircraft. Because delivery schedules are “pretty static,” this figure reflects widebody aircraft retirements, explains David Marcontell, TeamSAI president and COO. “Fundamentally, [it shows the impact of] the number of aircraft and the tails that would have stayed in service and didn't,” he says. “When we did this spot check, widebody fleet growth did not quite end up being what we thought it would be.”

Retirements as a result of aircraft age or fleet rationalization efforts lie behind these lower-than-anticipated numbers. In Asia Pacific, TeamSAI points to airlines retiring 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s vintage aircraft. And consolidations still in progress at merged airlines, such as at U.S. major carriers United-Continental and Delta-Northwest, have an impact as well, notes Chris Doan, TeamSAI chairman and CEO. The TeamSAI principals expect fleet numbers in some regions to shrink or remain stagnant as airlines continue to seek an economically feasible balance. In the U.S. in particular, Marcontell says an increase in employment and a shift to bullish freight forecasts must happen before the U.S. fleet can bottom out and begin to grow.

This turnover to more technologically advanced aircraft generally translates into less airframe maintenance per aircraft over time, but some cite positive MRO factors stemming from airlines' desire for fleet renewal. Tim Hoyland, a Dallas-based partner in Oliver Wyman's global aviation, aerospace, and defense practice, says delivery delays mean that “we're seeing maintenance events that people did not plan for on the widebodies” as new aircraft deliveries are pushed out due to manufacturing delays. Operators are keeping some older widebody aircraft, particularly ones that will be replaced by the Airbus A380, in operation longer than expected, Hoyland says. “It's going to provide a little bit of a boost in those particular aircraft's maintenance.”

The number of C checks required for the world fleet at large is expected to grow at 2% annually between November 2011 and November 2014, but the number of C checks for select widebody types (prioritized by overall workload and growth platforms by TeamSAI) will exceed that average, with a CAGR of 6% through 2013.

C checks for widebodies will see an uptick across several types of aircraft in 2012 and 2013. The market will see the most demand for Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 C checks, followed by increases in light maintenance for the Boeing 747-400 and its freighter variant, as well as for the Airbus A340-300, MRO Prospector data shows.

For widebodies, TeamSAI analysis finds that “the HMV growth across different variants is not as dramatic.” The Boeing 747, 767 and 777, and Airbus A330 top projected HMV events through 2013. The airframe MRO market for the select widebody aircraft featured here should see a CAGR of roughly 7% from 2011-13, compared with the fleetwide average CAGR of 3.1%.

Global Footprint

Last year, several widebody maintenance facilities opened. Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies in September inaugurated its new hangar, a facility with nine bays capable of accommodating Airbus A380 aircraft.

Last June in China, Taikoo (Xiamen) Aircraft Engineering Co. opened a $73.5 million two-widebody hangar; it is TAECO's sixth hangar facility and brings its total capacity to 12 widebodies and five narrowbodies.

Several more widebody facilities are slated to open soon. Lufthansa Technik is building a $23 million hangar at Berlin's in-development Brandenberg Airport that will be able to induct one Airbus A340 (or five short- or medium-haul aircraft) for airframe maintenance. Lufthansa Technik Philippines plans to open a one-bay hangar large enough to hold an A380 in February at Ninoy International Airport.

Another Airbus A380-capable hangar reportedly is under way at Clark International Airport in Singapore by SIA Engineering (Philippines) Corp., a joint venture of SIA Engineering Co. (Siaec) and Cebu Pacific, according to Asian Aviation and The Manila Bulletin. Such a hangar would boost Siaec's capabilities significantly, and it's worth noting that the MRO has been making investments to accommodate Singapore Airlines' growing fleet of Airbus A380 (it has 14 in service and five more on order). Siaec already operates an A380-size hangar in Singapore.

Turkish Technic's new Habom site in Istanbul will comprise widebody hangars as well as narrowbody hangars, and reports suggest that Qatar Airways' widebody MRO hangar at New Doha International Airport should open when the airport launches operations this year.