Maintenance , repair , and overhaul ( MRO ) providers are reporting a strong start to the year , with 70% telling Canaccord Genuity that their first-quarter metrics either met or exceeded their 2014 business objectives .

“We were struck by the growing sense of optimism we heard at the MRO Americas show in Phoenix ,” Canaccord analyst Ken Herbert writes in the firm ’s first-quarter commercial MRO survey .

“We consistently heard that January started soft, perhaps due to many of the weather-related groundings and travel disruptions in the U.S. , then improved in February, and then ended the quarter in March on a strong note . Moreover, the March strength seems to have continued into early April,” Herbert said.

While the positive vibes may be due in part to conservative forecasting , the survey results – gleaned from more than 60 MRO providers – demonstrate year-over-year growth in several areas . Year-over-year MRO sales were up 6.2% among respondents , while backlog was up 7.2%. The near-term MRO sales outlook is strong, up 7.6% compared to the 2013 first quarter.

Year-over-year backlogs picked up most in Europe and Asia – each up 8%-9% – while North American backlogs were up “ low single digits ,” the survey found. Backlog growth was strongest in engine , heavy maintenance , and modification work , and less pronounced in the components arena .

Parts purchasing , which was up 4.5% in the quarter, continues to lag behind MRO sales , but improved year over year on the heels of a clear de-stocking trend in 2013.

“We do not believe that the industry will see any further re-stocking , but with the broader recovery , we do expect parts purchasing and inventory levels to start to get closer to a normalized level ,” he writes. Used serviceable material ( USM ) – or surplus parts – continue to dampen new parts sales . Some older engines , including the CFM56-3C and the GE CF6 , have excess inventory , the survey notes .

“[We] believe USM will be a stronger headwind into 2015, with part-outs up slightly in 2014,” Herbert writes.