MRO’s Recovery: The Path Forward

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Our industry’s recovery is like putting together an 18,000-piece puzzle without seeing the picture on the top of the box. You know it’s all going to fit together, but the process will be challenging and require patience and focus. But once small sections start forming, it will get easier and easier to assemble.

While the picture has not yet been revealed to us, we are seeing glimpses of what our 276 X 192-cm (9 X 6-ft. 4 in.) puzzle will look like.

For starters, 47% of the global fleet is back in service, compared to 38% last month, and the percentage of parked aircraft has dropped to 24% from 35% last month, according to Aviation Week’s Fleet Discovery (see chart). Clearly, more aircraft flying is good for the aftermarket and the industry in general.

Airlines like WestJet are taking advantage of parked aircraft downtime to move various projects forward. WestJet technicians have been upgrading Boeing 737 cabins to make the passenger experience consistent with its 787s. The Canadian carrier’s technicians also creatively saved millions of dollars by covering flight controls and spoilers with hockey puck board to prevent hail damage. Chief Operating Officer Jeff Martin cautions that while it’s easy to be consumed by the COVID-19 crisis, “you have to continue to be able to look around the corner.” For instance, he and his team are seeking ways to reduce carbon emissions and save fuel. “You can’t let your guard down right now just because you’re in the middle of crisis; eventually we will be back in full competition mode, and low cost will win the day,” he says. See page MRO 08 for the interview and for a longer version.


Another trend is that MROs and suppliers need to reinvent their offerings. “Aftermarket suppliers will need to establish more service-led approaches to remain competitive,” says Kellstrom executive David Greenwell.

A key puzzle piece is digitalization, which has accelerated due to the COVID crisis. “We developed applications for communication, remote inspections and repair decisions,” says Norbert Marx, Gameco’s CEO and general manager. Allowing customers to review critical work remotely is crucial in these times and can make processes more efficient as well.

To attempt to show you as many pieces of the puzzle as we can, Aviation Week’s editors have created a series of Flight Paths Forward articles, CEO video interviews and webinars—across all industry segments, including MRO, which can be accessed here: I urge you to check it out.

If you think the 18,000-piece puzzle sounds daunting,  Guinness World Records says the world’s biggest puzzle consisted of 551,232 pieces and measured 14.85 X 23.2 m (roughly 48 X 76 ft.). Our situation is challenging, but it could be worse.

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.