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BY BILL BURCHELL

BY BILL BURCHELL
Articles
Platforms For Success

LONDON—Aircraft docking systems can substantially boost an MRO's profitability, especially if they are tailor-made to enhance the business. The advantage such systems provide can be considerable, according to Robin Wohnsigl, president and CEO of Laurentian Aerospace Corp., who is backing his belief with hard cash. His new MRO is not only investing in an automated, laser-guided, self-positioning docking system for its state-of-the-art maintenance hangar in Plattsburg, N.Y., but it also has acquired Contec Multidocking Ltd. (CML), the company that made the system.

Volcanic Ash

LONDON

—The dark specter of volcanic eruption brews again beneath Iceland. Early in February, the Icelandic Meteorological Office warned of an increased risk of eruption in an area covering Iceland’s second largest volcano, Bárdarbunga, which dwarfs the Eyjafjallajökull volcano that closed European airspace last April. If, or when, the disruptions happen, will airlines be better prepared to handle them?
Realizing the Dream 

The discovery of oil in the early 1960s transformed Abu Dhabi from a pearling center into a global business powerhouse. The largest of the seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates federation, Abu Dhabi possesses 94% of the nation’s oil reserves, covers 87% of the land area and accommodates 38% of the population. Today, it’s the world’s fourth-largest oil producer, contributing 10% of the world’s oil and 5% of its gas.

Pressure Points 

LONDON—Intense operational pressures on European regional carriers are reshaping the market, pushing many to seek low-priced MRO services and making them hesistant to commit early. Despite some early signs of recovery, doing business as an airline today is painful.

Compare this scenario to the state of affairs for Europe’s low-cost carriers (LCCs), who as a whole continue to operate in the black. Some even forge ahead with plans to expand their in-house maintenance capabilities, which flies counter to many LCC business models.

Wanted: More On-Wing Wizardry 

—Engine maintenance has come a long way, with repairs developed in the workshop evolving into tasks that can be undertaken on-wing or in situ at a customer’s base. With the cost of an engine overhaul topping $2 million and on-wing repair and part replacement services costing between 1% and 10% of that, demand for more repairs to be made available on-wing has never been greater.

Maintenance by Design 

LONDON—Design has a huge influence on the through-life costs of aircraft and their components, not only in terms of performance but also improved reliability and reduced maintenance costs. A former aircraft engineer, David Hill, head of maintenance programs engineering for Airbus in the U.K., heads a specialist team at Filton that develops maintenance tasks for the wings, landing gear and fuel systems of Airbus aircraft.

Modernizing Maintenance IT 

The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) is to replace its aging Autolog maintenance and logistics system with a new MRO IT solution as part of a wide-ranging upgrade program called EMDAD. While EMDAD means “logistics” in Arabic, the project actually covers all RSAF assets, both fixed-wing and rotary, and extends into flight simulators, armaments and equipment such as ejection seats.

MRO Gulf Builds Up 

Few places around the world have seen their economies grow as fast as the Persian Gulf states of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, which over recent years have become an aviation powerhouse. On that journey, these countries have rapidly established fast-growing airlines and now are building airports, aerospace manufacturing and MRO industries to support their burgeoning fleets.

Green Coats for Etihad Fleet 

LONDON—Etihad Airways is introducing a new aircraft exterior coating program to its entire fleet, making it the first major international airline to use the treatment. The Etihad decision to treat its existing fleet and all new aircraft deliveries will introduce the coating to long-haul airline operations for the first time. Etihad’s global network will provide the platform that determines the program’s results.

A380 Runway Safety 

—The European Aviation Safety Agency has approved and certified Airbus’ Brake-To-Vacate (BTV) and Runway Overrun Warning and Prevention (ROW/ROP) for the Airbus A380 following successful development testing. BTV is designed to ease airport congestion and improve runway turnaround time, while ROW/ROP addresses runway excursion risk at landing. Both BTV and ROW/ROP have been patented by Airbus.

Refreshing Air Quality 

—Mass air travel can be seen as both a boon and a bane for humanity: a boon because it facilitates social, leisure and business opportunities, and a bane because the close confines of passenger aircraft cabins could potentially facilitate the international spread of human diseases. The outbreaks of SARS and bird flu this decade and the imminent potential of a swine flu pandemic have concentrated efforts to clean cabin air of every conceivable contaminant.

Investment in Dublin MRO 

LONDON—Dublin Aerospace, a new start-up MRO, planned to open in September on the site vacated by SR Technics at Dublin Airport. It will eventually employ some 226 people.

“We knew SR Technics had given up trying to sell the company as a going concern and was starting to sell-off their assets and tooling. So we put a group of investors together and created a business plan which, we felt, would make this business relevant in the current environment,” said Connor McCarthy, executive chairman, Dublin Aerospace.

Rise of the Machines 

The machines are coming! As Arthur C. Clarke predicts in 2001: A Space Odyssey, intelligent machines are with us and will become ever more intelligent as time progresses. The speed at which new technology develops also will accelerate, spawning new designs, materials, production techniques, repair methodologies and robotic tools.

Airbus a350xwbs High-Tech Promise 

—Airbus aims to achieve “an unprecedented level of system maturity” for its A350XWB twinjet well before the aircraft’s first flight, according to Didier Evrard, who heads the A350XWB Program. “Maturity at first flight will be a major challenge because, at that point, lots of components for the aircraft will already be in production and repair schemes agreed,” he says.

Lasers Light The Way 

GKN Aerospace and German laser technology specialist SLCR Lasertechnik (SLCR) intend to develop automated laser technology that will provide improved repairs to composite structures, faster and at a lower cost. The companies are working on an automated laser process to replace the time consuming, manual grinding of composite surfaces currently used to prepare them for bonded repairs. The new process removes damaged material, leaving the remaining material fibers and resin intact.

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