How Soon Will Airline Maintenance Resume?

Credit: Airbus

Ask the Editors: The Aviation Week Network invites our readers to submit questions to our editors and analysts. We’ll answer them, and if we can’t we’ll reach out to our wide network of experts for advice. 

With some regions reopening from COVID-19 shutdowns, will maintenance of airline fleets come back soon? What would that time frame look like?

Chief Editor, MRO, Lee Ann Shay responds: 

Even though some areas around the world are opening up, don’t expect airlines to quickly resume maintenance. Airlines will be in cash-preservation mode for as long as they can, so the rest of this year and 2021 could be tough years for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO).

Expect airframe maintenance to come back first because it is based on calendar time—not flight cycles. OEMs have adjusted some calendar time requirements for parked aircraft during the coronavirus pandemic, but the clock will continue to tick for airframes.  

Engine overhauls will take a big hit in the short term because many airlines will seek green-time powerplants to avoid multimillion-dollar shop visits.

Line maintenance coincides with passenger traffic, so expect both to return slowly, with domestic passengers returning to the skies first.

Airlines will postpone cabin modifications, except for those reconfiguring passenger aircraft to carry freight in the cabin. Lufthansa Technik alone says it has fielded inquiries from 40 airlines—with 15 projects in implementation phase—for this temporary modification.

Even as MRO work recovers, consider payment terms. “The biggest thing we’re seeing is a lack of payment—that’s for everybody,” says Jason Reed, president of the component solutions group at GA Telesis. “The airlines have gone different ways: some of them very generous, some of them not generous. We’ve seen everything from 60-180 days of the payment term requests, and I even have a few . . . 12-18-month lack-of-payment requests. Some of them simply didn’t ask—they told [us] that they weren’t going to pay.”

Lee Ann Shay

As executive editor of MRO and business aviation, Lee Ann Shay directs Aviation Week's coverage of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), including Inside MRO, and business aviation, including BCA.