The 2014 winners of Aviation Week’s MRO of the Year awards exemplify excellence in merging organizations, serving customers, expanding internationally to solve problems, and returning aircraft under difficult circumstances. Our 2014 honorees—Latam Airline Group, Rockwell Collins and Intertrade, GA Telesis, and Marshall Aerospace—provide examples of how creative problem-solving can go a long way in achieving service excellence. Aviation Week will present awards to the four winners, along with the Lifetime Achievement Award that has not yet been announced, at a ceremony at Aviation Week’s MRO Americas Conference & Exhibition in Phoenix on April 8.

Airline Maintenance Excellence

Latam Airline Group

After merging LAN and TAM airlines in mid-2012, which created Latin America’s biggest airline, the Latam Airline Group is integrating faster than expected and growing profits. Fleet integration and cabin reconfiguration are well underway. Besides cargo, MRO is one of the biggest potential areas for synergies between LAN and TAM. By better allocating resources, “we were able to increase hangar utilization to above 90% for both LAN and TAM,” says Sebastian Acuto, LAN’s vice president for engineering and maintenance.

For example, LAN has cut the number of outsourced C checks in half, whereas before, “TAM was selling part of its capacity to other airlines when we had to buy work from outside,” says Acuto. MRO specializations are forming within the now-larger group, as well. Most of the heavy Airbus A320 work will be done at TAM’s San Carlos, Brazil, facility, while the 767s will stay in Santiago, Chile. San Carlos will perform heavy checks on 10 LAN A320s this year and four TAM 767s will be serviced in Santiago.

Innovative Supplier/OEM Services Provider

Rockwell Collins’s Intertrade

Rockwell Collins’s Intertrade division, which has been supplying used serviceable parts for 40 years, boldly expanded into engine spares in 2013, completing its evolution from a one-product specialist to a full-service used-component supplier. In early 2013, Intertrade quietly began offering engine parts to customers, breaking the news in a late-April Tweet that it was offering CFM56-7B parts. 

Steady buying and stocking last year created a sizable inventory, setting Intertrade up to formally announce its latest expansion by Nov. 1. “We’ve grown our business significantly on the non-Rockwell Collins side, buying whole aircraft for teardown,” said Chris Rauch, Intertrade’s director. “We saw [engine parts] as just a natural extension of our strategy to continue along that growth path.”

Intertrade spent 25 years focusing on avionics before delving into airframe parts, starting with Boeing 737 Classics. In 1999, Rockwell Collins purchased the company, joining the increasing pool of manufacturers recognizing the value of the aftermarket beyond supporting their own products.

Leading Independent MRO

GA Telesis

GA Telesis greatly expanded its global material supply and services in 2013, including the integration of GA Telesis Engine Services (Gates) and the first commercial aircraft disassembly and parts redistribution shop in China. 

One month after GA Telesis acquired Finnair’s engine service business, it won a $500 million, 10-year contract to repair and overhaul engines for Transaero Airlines. The Russian airline contracted Gates to maintain 62 General Electric CF6-80C2 engines that power its Boeing 767 and 747 aircraft. Gates is located at Helsinki International Airport and has capacity to overhaul up to 200 engines per year.

GA Telesis and Air China formed a joint venture, creating the first dismantling and redistribution parts company in China to support aging aircraft in that country. Its official opening was March 5. It brings years of GA Telesis’ teardown experience in the U.S. and U.K. and marries it with the CAAC’s standards.

GA Telesis entered into the joint venture because the Chinese aviation market has reached the point where it must address the aging of the Western aircraft in its fleet, said CEO Abdol Moabery. Air China also needed a strategy to maximize the value of its assets.

The Chinese government has age restrictions on imported aircraft: 10 years for passenger aircraft and 15 for freighters.

And in December, the company signed a letter of intent to form a joint venture with Chorus Aviation to provide component and spare parts support for regional aircraft.

Military Center of Excellence

Marshall Aerospace

A severe hailstorm hit Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan on April 23, 2013, severely damaging five U.K. RAF Lockheed Martin Hercules C-130Js. Each aircraft suffered about 2,000 hail strikes. In particular, the ailerons were badly affected. The RAF grounded the fleet and issued an Urgent Operational Requirement to return the aircraft to service as soon as possible.

Working closely with the OEM, Lockheed Martin, and the U.K. Ministry of Defence, Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group established a dedicated team to undertake an extreme- weather-damage recovery project called “Operation Weatherman.” Since there was a lack of spare “J” ailerons and elevators in the RAF’s supply chain, Marshall ADG’s solution was to use surplus C-130K components. This required considerable engineering effort, but enabled the damaged ailerons to be replaced onsite in Kandahar and returned one aircraft to service just eight weeks after the hailstorm.

By mid-September, four of the five aircraft had resumed flying duties.