Fast 5: Dealing With Aircraft Storage Demand

Patrick Lecer, CEO of Tarmac Aerosave.
Credit: Tarmac Aerosave

The COVID-19 outbreak led to a high of nearly 80% of the world’s commercial aircraft being grounded earlier this year. Patrick Lecer, CEO of Tarmac Aerosave, which stores aircraft in France and Spain, talks to James Pozzi about addressing capacity challenges amidst its highest ever volume of stored aircraft.

Tarmac Aerosave has four core divisions comprised of aircraft maintenance, storage, transitions, and dismantling and recycling. How were these immediately impacted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Having four pillars of the business makes us very lucky during a time like this. Due to the crisis, we did lose pretty much everything linked to maintenance. Our dedicated hangar was scheduled to be mostly full for all of 2020 but it is now empty with the modifications and retrofit contracts we had in place all gone. Demand for dismantling and recycling, which we had planned to increase this year, also dropped. Engine and parts trading activities have also slowed down. Fortunately, we could maintain the activities for aircraft storage. This year, we've mostly relied on this service. At the end of last year we were storing around 150 aircraft but in 2020 this has surpassed 200 aircraft and we expect more to come.

Did this spike in aircraft storage demand bring capacity challenges?

Last year we realized demand for storage was growing and we anticipated reaching our full capacity sometime by the end of 2020. We extended our sites in Tarbes and Teruel. The work is underway but won't be completed until 2021. However, when we saw the crisis and the need for us to have space to store customer aircraft, we started looking at adding more sites across Europe. This led to us to add another location at Paris-Vatry airport, which opened in June. 

How many aircraft will the Paris-Vatry site be able to accommodate?

We will start with 30 aircraft but there are options for another 20 and if necessary, a further 20 aircraft after that. 

It's possible that a large number of grounded aircraft won't return to the skies, at least with their current operators. Having added a fourth storage location, could it be possible that even more capacity could be added?

The situation is changing all the time and it is really quite unbelievable. We're receiving a lot of calls and requests for information about whether we have space for aircraft. We always try to answer positively. When we started to realize that we reached our maximum capacity, we added the site in Vatry and and are looking at others sites. There are other sites in Europe we've approached and could open something if needed. I don't foresee a time when we cannot accept aircraft.

Some aircraft are returning to service having been parked for several months. Are you seeing this across Tarmac Aerosave's storage sites?

Yes but a lot less than we expected. Usually, around three-quarters of the aircraft we receive are redelivered back into the fleet--so around 75% to 80%. This year we have received 150 aircraft and only around 70 of these have gone back into operation. Maybe 80% of the aircraft were coming in for short-term parking, which is defined as a period of less than three months. Before, we estimated that around half of these will move into long-term storage, but it will actually be more than that, with 80% of these aircraft moving into long-term storage. Some aircraft arriving now just go straight into long-term storage.

James Pozzi

As Aviation Week's MRO Editor EMEA, James Pozzi covers the latest industry news from the European region and beyond. He also writes in-depth features on the commercial aftermarket for Inside MRO.