Extended 777 Groundings Bode Ill For GE90 Aftermarket

Credit: GE Aviation

Independent MRO providers and engine lessors have a tougher time in the widebody engine aftermarket than they do with narrowbody powerplants, both because of greater OEM involvement and the smaller size of the market in general.

One exception has been the popular GE90 powerplant on the Boeing 777, which is often found in independent engine lessor portfolios and in the overhaul capabilities of non-OEM-affiliated maintenance shops. 

In late 2019, Aviation Week predicted that the GE90 would be the leading widebody engine maintenance driver in 2020, accounting for $4.4 billion of demand--a total that was forecast to rise to $6 billion by 2029.

Such figures would have been encouraging to the likes of HAECO Composite Services in Jinjiang, China, which has just added a capability for preventive maintenance inspections and associated repairs on fan stator modules for GE90 engines.

The work includes ultrasonic inspections of composite panels and other metallic components of the fan stator module. Preventive maintenance inspections of the fan stator modules for GE90-100/115 engines are mandated by the OEM to be performed upon specified engines once they reach 50,000 flight hours.

However, the current crisis has raised serious questions about whether previously expected GE90 aftermarket sales are still achievable. Given the mass groundings of widebody aircraft and airlines’ rapid cost-cutting, 2020 demand is almost certainly set to be lower, while ongoing airline planning suggests that once-predicted MRO volumes for the GE90 may never materialize.

Air New Zealand, for example, is reported to have axed the 777 from its schedule until April 2021 at the earliest, while a number of Asian operators of the 777 that companies like HAECO might have targeted for business are in serious trouble.

While many of the larger 777 operators in the region are in line for state aid, they may still want to rationalize their widebody fleets around younger models.

Alex Derber

Alex Derber, a UK-based aviation journalist, is editor of the Engine Yearbook and a contributor to Aviation Week and Inside MRO.