Aviation Aftermarket Bemoans Supply Chain Pain

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With airline reporting season well underway, it becomes clear from every new set of results that many markets are recovering strongly, with some carriers even exceeding their pre-pandemic sales in recent months.

Yet the speed of recovery, especially on narrowbody sectors, threatens to outpace the capacity of the aviation supply chain, which, like those of other industries, is under pressure from geopolitical events—as well as some problems of its own making.

"Supply chains are strained globally on almost every product and service imaginable, and we are not immune," notes Doug Rasmussen, president and group director of North Carolina-based HAECO Cabin Solutions, in an interview with Inside MRO. He adds that HAECO now tries to anticipate demand by ordering parts "months" ahead of when it normally would.

SR Technics is experiencing similar problems. "We are also observing massively long lead times in general, and with that we receive constant notifications that pricing had to increase due to the lack of supply," says SR Technics Malta’s vice president of operations, Daniel Galea.

Niels Dose, product sales and key account manager for base maintenance services at Lufthansa Technik, agrees that both lead times and prices have risen steeply. On top of constrained supply of raw materials, he blames layoffs during the pandemic that have been hard to replace as demand has returned.

"Skilled staff often turned to other industries outside aviation and the required qualified staff are rare and hard to re-recruit," he notes.

Galea echoes this view. "It is not only a matter of lack of material, but many are suffering due to lack of human resources since some have left the industry completely during the pandemic," he says.

Rasmussen, meanwhile, points out that cabin refurbishers, as well as their suppliers, are experiencing a labor squeeze. He also makes the wider point that overall capacity in the cabin market is below where it needs to be due companies contracting during the pandemic.

"It is a lot easier to slow or stop production than it is to ramp back up," he says.

For a full report on how the supply chain is impacting aircraft cabin refurbishment projects, see the forthcoming issue of Inside MRO.

Alex Derber

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