Are Some Airlines Likely To Revisit Use Of PMA And DER Parts?

fuel pump gears
Fuel pump gears from HEICO.
Credit: HEICO

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. 

A recent Ask the Editors stated that “Airlines are very focused on cost containment, so parts and repair and used serviceable material will be more popular than new parts when possible.” What about the cost-saving benefits of FAA-PMA replacement parts and DER parts? Would it be reasonable to expect that some airlines that have shunned such parts would revisit that policy?

Air Transport and Safety Editor Sean Broderick responds: 

The short answer is “Yes.” Here’s why: Many airlines that own their aircraft already embrace used serviceable material (USM), parts manufacturer approval (PMA) parts and designated engineering representative (DER) repairs, as they recognize the value. 

In some jurisdictions, regulations are an issue, but this headwind, which primarily hit PMA parts, is easing.

That leaves leased aircraft, which comprise about 50% of the fleet. Airlines typically do not have much leverage in telling lessors how aircraft will be maintained. If a lessor does not use PMA or DER, the airline had to abide. But that is changing—and the COVID-19 pandemic may see it change more. 

Carriers such as American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Copa Airlines have helped set the precedent by rejecting no-PMA clauses, for instance, and lessors, which need good customers as much as airlines need dependable lift, have acquiesced. 

As global traffic resets after the coronavirus pandemic, lessors could face challenges keeping aircraft placed with, and paid for by, dependable customers. Airlines that are in the dependable-customer category may be able to leverage this to win more favorable lease terms. It never hurts to ask—and it’s amazing how many operators apparently do not. 

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.