Aviation Maintenance in the Time of Coronavirus by JOY FINNEGAN

In our annual State of the Industry feature, we ask top leaders in our industry to give us their take on where we are and where we are going as an industry. These leaders freely share their knowledge and wisdom with us so we can benefit from their expertise, experience and deep understanding of the market in which we work.

Asking for input this year was daunting. It’s easy to share insights when the economy is booming, hangars and shops are full and backlogs are in the months or in some cases even years category. But now, more than ever, we need a reality check. Where are we as an industry? How bad is it? How bad will it be? Will the recovery be quick or take longer than expected? What should companies be doing right now to shore up their resources and protect their businesses?

Asking the biggest and best companies as well as crucial smaller players these questions at a time like this yielded amazing information. We are so grateful for all who took the time to share their thoughts and advice on this most unusual of circumstances that we find ourselves in. The coronavirus pandemic has flummoxed the industry. But these humble leaders found amazing thoughts to share and even encourage us with. Please read through our State of the Industry feature starting on page 16.

Let me share some highlights that leapt out to me. The first thing to jump out to me was from MTU’s SVP Martin Friis-Petersen. After a massive slowing down of their operations for several weeks, the company is now beginning to ramp up again and using a philosophy they have hashtagged, #SmartNewNormal. The company says they will adjust shop capacity as needed, remaining flexible. Friis-Petersen commended the people of MTU Maintenance for their solidarity in the face of the current challenges.

StandardAero CEO Russell Ford says one bright spot in their portfolio is their diversity of clientele. For example, he says their military work remains consistent, both with U. S. government clients as well as international military clients. As for the commercial sector, Ford says StandardAero is monitoring and managing the situation daily and “have contingency plans for quickly aligning operating costs with volume declines on an engine program-by-program and site-by-site basis.”

Ever the realist, Lufthansa Technik’s CEO, Dr. Johannes Bussmann, says the fact that many airlines have reduced flights by 90 percent will bring some airlines to the brink of survival and that the consequences to the MRO industry will be massive. He says they are doing everything possible to ensure the economic stability of their company while supporting their customers. In spite of the situation he concluded with a positive statement saying that he believes the aviation industry will “regain its former strength,” and eventually grow again.

Derek Zimmerman, president of Gulfstream Customer Support says their facilities remain open and that they adopted new health and safety protocols. Zimmerman says some customers have used this time to do planned and scheduled maintenance. He adds as the travel restrictions are lifted, they believe more companies and individuals will see the benefits of business aircraft travel utilizing business jets.

STS Aerospace PJ Anson says first and foremost the safety of their employees is the number one concern of the company. Anson says managing their customer demand to their costs and cash burn is the biggest focus for the long term.

But he also believes companies that make decisions now to become leaner and meaner will ultimately allow a business to survive and even be more profitable.

One area of concern Andy Hakes, CEO of AireXpert, points to is the expiration of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act which is providing economic assistance for American workers, families, and small businesses with the hopes of preserving jobs for American industries. Another area Hakes is focusing on is the continued viability of airline vendor networks and he says some smaller vendors may be facing crisis soon. He also says he is hearing the all too familiar refrain that companies will need to do more with less resources – but at an even more critical level.

The National Air Transportation Association is also bullish on business aviation once travel resumes, predicting a boom even. SVP Ryan Waguespack says businesses will be aiming to keep their people safe and will be using business jets as one way they do that. As for the commercial airline sector, Waguespack predicts a W shaped flight activity recovery period.

Boeing Global Services CEO Ted Colbert believes the work you do is key for people, communities, business, trade and “for the security and interconnectedness of our world.” He says BGS is helping reconfigure passenger airplanes into freighters and working toward digital innovations that will help as operators lean out.

Management consulting firm Oliver Wyman released updates to their annual MRO Forecast just as we went to press. Dave Marcontell, partner, says air carriers “are facing extreme financial pressures and are cutting capacity at unparalleled rates,” and they have revised their forecast for the MRO industry dramatically. One key piece of advice they give is that airlines and MROs need to figure out how to keep the key talent they have, so when the industry does turn around, they will have the experienced personnel needed. Turn to page 26 to read what the experts at Oliver Wyman are anticipating now and see more from their revised forecast.

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