For Late-Life Fleets, KATS Focuses On Heavy Maintenance Alternatives

As aircraft reach their mid and late-life stage, airlines and leasing companies have decisions to make.  Among them is whether to invest in what is likely going to be one more major airframe and engine inspection prior to the aircraft’s retirement.

Fortunately, less costly alternatives to heavy shop visits exist, enabling the aircraft to remain in compliance with safety of flight regulations, while running out their remaining sunset cycles.  To assist airlines and lessors identify the best maintenance options for aging aircraft, Florida-based Kellstrom Aerospace launched Kellstrom Aerospace Technical Services (KATS) in 2017. KATS has been structured to function as a technical consultancy, now exclusively focused on commercial jet engines.

“We launched KATS due to market demand for solutions that combine technical and commercial expertise in order to manage asset portfolios through technical, commercial and risk management,” says Jeff Lund, President and Chief Executive Officer of Kellstrom Aerospace.  “With expertise in powerplant engineering from our own portfolio management, we decided to expand KATS service to our customers, with the intent to maximize the residual values of their aircraft and reduce operating risks going forward.”

“We add value to the process, not by offering MRO services, but providing unbiased technical knowledge and expertise to suggest strategies that achieve optimum solutions,” explains Alfredo Alvarez, KATS’ Senior Manager of Technical Services.

KATS, in fact, leverages the expertise of Kellstrom Aerospace, a full-service asset management organization--encompassing technical services, asset trading, leasing, and surplus inventory support—in conjunction with Vortex Aviation, Inc., acquired by Kellstrom in 2017.  With facilities in Singapore, Dublin, Shannon and Fort Lauderdale, Vortex Aviation specializes in AOG on-wing engine maintenance services and quick-turn engine repairs across all major commercial aircraft engine platforms.

KATS also benefits from a diverse leadership team that includes airline operations, military service and engine MRO experience as mechanics, quality inspectors and powerplant engineers, Alvarez adds.

“When we look at an engine, we consider the intent of the owner, length of time they want to keep it on wing, and how much they want to invest,” he says.  “From there, we determine the most economical solution for their desired outcome.” He also cites several cases showcasing KATS’ value-added services.

“A major aircraft lessor had two engines deemed un-serviceable, due to hot section combustor area damage,” Alvarez explains.  “KATS was consulted to analyze the need for a premature engine removal which resulted in a limited surgical strike hot section repair, enabling continued green time operation avoiding a heavy shop visit.”

In another situation, says Alvarez, a major European operator, in preparation for a shop visit, was advised by KATS to solicit an NTE (not to exceed) proposal, to include a specific work scope and scrap material assumptions.  “KATS provided successful management of the shop visit, which included a post-invoice review, saving the customer a half-million dollars,” he notes.

Along this line, Alvarez reported that a low-cycle-since-new engine managed by KATS for a business aircraft operator failed inspection due to high-pressure turbine deterioration.  Because the aircraft owner had a support agreement with an independent MRO, the owner was advised to discuss a repair rebate with the engine OEM. The result was a $2 million credit from the OEM, which the owner applied to the repair.

“Our customers range from those who require maximum time on wing (TOW), with substantial maintenance reserves, and where used serviceable material (USM) is not appropriate, to those with end of life assets where cost is of prime importance and USM is desired,” says Alvarez.  “The KATS team’s fundamental concern is producing an engine that meets the expected TOW at the optimum cost.”