From Reliability To Pooling At Air Canada

Credit: Air Canada

Reliability is important to every airline, but it must be balanced against the cost of achieving it. At the recent International Airlines Technical Pool (IATP) conference, Henry Canaday spoke to Marc-Andre Huard, operations manager for components, about how Air Canada achieves this.

Is your basic objective to maximize technical dispatch reliability (TDR) while minimizing cost per flight hour or available seat-mile?

Yes, basically. But we also have an inflight entertainment (IFE) metric—the percentage of seats that have IFE available for passenger convenience.

Marc-Andre Huard
Marc-André Huard, Air Canada’s operations manager for components. Credit: Air Canada

Are there TDR target metrics you can tell us?

It depends on the fleet. There is a range for each fleet. The older ones are lower, and the younger ones are higher. But there are also teething pains for younger jets. Also, we don’t know initially which components on the new jets will fail the most often. OEMs tell us which ones are probable [to fail], but it usually takes two years to find out. Then we get into the golden age of low maintenance.

We publish these metrics internally in our control tower display. It shows the TDR for each fleet and IFE available, as well as causes and plans for action.

How much does a cancellation or delay cost you?

There are so many variables. We have a number for each fleet type. And for delays, it also depends on country. We must follow the rules for passenger protection that just went into effect in Canada. These went into effect last summer and increased on Jan. 15. Now the airline is trying to figure out the compensation.

What is your part strategy?

We use Servigistics to track failures. When a new aircraft is introduced, this tool is not as good. But once we are flying for a while, the tool gets smarter and makes recommendations. It tracks usage and how many flying hours we do. Then it tells us the likelihood of needing parts. It’s not perfect. There is also the human [element], and you can always be misled. If we change parts sometimes, we adjust it. For engines, we have another group that looks at those.

Servigistics is also segmented. It’s designed so we can specify 99% availability for no-go, low-cost parts. There are nine segments in all. We classify them as high-runners, medium-runners and low-runners—and low-price, medium-price and high-price. There are price limits for each segment. For low-cost, higher usage, no-go parts, we want [availability] there every time.

Servigistics takes information into account, calculates probabilities and makes recommendations on where we are short or where we have a surplus. Then we add in human factors.

Do you have flight-hour agreements?

Many. Half of our fleet components are on flight-hour agreements with OEMs Lufthansa Technik (LHT) and AAR.

Then why worry about part needs?

We still worry. We want to do a sanity check. Do we rent or own the right stuff? We get a home base kit and then we get two to three years of usage. So we want to do a sanity check and renegotiate so we can rebalance our home base kits as the platforms evolve.

Which other software do you use?

Our main [enterprise resource planning software (ERP)]  for planning maintenance is Trax. Servigistics and Trax talk to each other. In 2013 we got Trax, and in 2015 we integrated them. Our old ERP, a DOS-based in-house system, only [transferred information] one way and [for] expendables, [not rotables], not [transferring information] in and out. We are happy with Servigistics and Trax now, but it was a difficult transition.

Why do you use IATP parts pools?

You can’t have everything everywhere. It’s easy if you go into some stations enough, like London eight times a day, where we put our own stocks. But if we fly seasonally into Athens a few times a week, we look for service providers. We ask other airlines because it costs less together. We don’t have to buy parts, and we do not have to arrange logistics.

At the same time, I use the pool to offset spending on inventory at main bases. I carry inventory at Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, and I can make revenue assisting an airline that only flies there once a week. It’s a good way to generate revenue and help them out.

Is there a rule of thumb on how many times you must fly to a station to own your own inventory there?

No. Sometimes we cannot supply a wheel. Sometimes we don’t have the inventory to put there because the OEMs cannot supply the inventory fast enough. The minimum would probably be once a day, and we would try to put our own wheels there if we had the inventory.

Do you use any pools other than those from IATP?

Not really. We have access to the LHT pool under the flight-hour agreement, but that is a little different. We pay a flat rate for repairs and access to the pool.

For which parts do you use the IATP pool?

We use IATP for wheels and brakes and for no-go parts such as valves, engine components and wiper motors. [Wiper motors] are a simple but no-go item.

What are the advantages of IATP pools?

We can find other airlines that fly into our destinations. There is networking and getting to know people. The IATP conferences are a great venue for seeing new airlines that fly into a city we serve. Look at Starlux Airlines [which joined IATP in March]. They are just starting from nothing and in a few years will be flying 27 aircraft. They might fly into Canada, and I would not have known them except for IATP. If they called us and asked to borrow a part and I didn’t know they were legitimate, I might fear losing thousands of dollars.

Aside from part pools, are you in other IATP pools?

We are in the aircraft recovery pool. It’s very rare but very important if any of our aircraft ever went on an “excursion.” You have got to be ready for that kind of event. And we are in line maintenance pools, but these are outside IATP. This IATP event is a good conduit to adjust those line pool agreements. We already know our line maintenance plan for this summer.

What do you hope to accomplish at this meeting?

For me, at every conference I find out the new operators that will fly into the places we fly to [in summer]. I want to make our parts available for other airlines to seek. Ethiopian Airlines just came to visit us. That can generate revenue. It’s not huge, but we can make money from our inventory.