Pulse Of MRO Market Given COVID-19 Uncertainties

Lee Ann Shay

While aviation is full of positive, growth-mode news, the amount of COVID-19-related bad news is making an impact—from canceled flights to supply chain slowdowns.

The day last week I traveled through five cities on three continents could illustrate today’s market situation. I started in Dubai (pictured here), at the end of our MRO Middle East event, where I spoke with executives from around the Middle East who say business is robust. (The region’s projected 8.3% year-over-year MRO growth rate is higher than for others, according to Aviation Week’s forecast for 2020-29.)

Sanad Aerotech announced adding several new engine capabilities last year and is focusing on growing its global network to accommodate that work. It announced a partnership with Ethiopian Airlines to establish a center of excellence for narrowbody APU MRO and is “actively looking at Southeast Asia and the Americas” for expansion opportunities, says Mansoor Janahi, Sanad Aerotech CEO.

Lufthansa Technik Middle East (LTME) has been building up its spare component levels and repair capabilities, including for the Boeing 787 nacelle. While the business was originally set up to focus on Middle Eastern customers, it has become a center of excellence for GE90 thrust reversers, which is drawing GE90 and V2500 business from Europe as well, says Ziad Al Hazmi, CEO of LTME.

Meanwhile, Aerostructures Middle East Services has expanded in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone to accommodate new preventive maintenance inspections and associated repairs on GE90 fan stator modules. And Jordan Airmotive says CFM International approved its application for a CFM56-7B license.

The mood at MRO Middle East was optimistic and very businesslike, but when I landed in Zurich, news of the spreading COVID-19 in Europe seemed top of mind. Italy, in particular was having problems, making me rethink my vacation there in a few weeks.

Delays out of Zurich and New Jersey hindered my timely return to Chicago O’Hare, where I ended one business trip and began one planned the day before. Without much time to spare, I grabbed my bag, switched terminals and checked onto a flight to Tulsa, Oklahoma, late that night. If I represented the supply chain during this portion of my trip, the delays strained and even caused uncertainty whether I'd make it.

I did catch the flight, and the trip to Tulsa was fantastic. I met with American Airlines’ senior leadership, including Chairman and CEO Doug Parker and Kevin Brickner, senior vice president for technical operations, before they announced a $550 million investment in its Tulsa maintenance base. American has been expanding its largest base’s capabilities to enable it to insource more work—and now it is adding a widebody hangar and modernizing the rest of its World War II-era facilities and infrastructure to keep up with its younger fleet. The mood there, as you can imagine, was optimistic.

We’re in uncertain times, but our industry will prevail and become stronger than ever. Make sure you’re balancing a short- and long-term view—and don’t let the short term get you down. Now more than ever, look at the positives.

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.