AFI KLM E&M Signs New Deal with TAAG

AFI KLM E&M Signs New Deal with TAAG

Air France Industries KLM Engineering & Maintenance (AFI KLM E&M) announced a new contract with TAAG, the national airlines of Angola. This five-year agreement includes a pool and repair component support, as well as an MBK (Main Base Kit) for their aircraft fleet of five 777-300 and three 777-200.

The new agreement marks the first exclusive component support agreement between AFI KLM E&M and TAAG, symbolizing the growing relationship between the two companies. “We are pleased to partner with AFI KLM E&M, a trusted provider of MRO services. This five-year agreement will ensure the reliable and efficient maintenance of our Boeing 777 fleet, which is crucial for our operations. We look forward to this continued fruitful relationship,” said Nelson de Oliveira, CEO at TAAG.

“We are thrilled to see today the start of this partnership with TAAG on their Boeing 777 fleet,” said Géry Mortreux, executive vice president at Air France Industries. “We will continue to provide them with the highest quality pool and repair component support. And through this partnership we are also excited to deepen our footprint in Africa and expand our reach in the region.”

AJW Group Announces Promotion of Mallette to President of AJW Technique

AJW Group Announces Promotion of Mallette to President of AJW Technique

AJW Group announced the promotion of Louis Philippe Mallette to the position of president of AJW Technique, their MRO facility located in Montreal, Canada. Bringing 25 years of international operational and strategic expertise in the aviation industry to his new role, Mallette’s experience includes time as MRO workgroup president of Aéro Montréal supporting Quebec’s aerospace cluster, in their mission to increase cohesion, optimize the competitiveness, and driving sustainable growth in the region.

Prior to joining AJW Technique, Mallette spent 23 years at Bombardier, where he rose to the role of general manager. Since joining AJW Technique as senior vice president in September 2021, Mallette has adeptly steered the facility through its post-pandemic resurgence, showcasing his leadership prowess and commitment to excellence.

As president of AJW Technique, Mallette will assume responsibility for all facets of the facility’s operations to optimize operational efficiencies with an ongoing mandate to propel strategic growth initiatives and nurture a culture of innovation and excellence. Mallette will continue to report to and collaborate closely with AJW Group’s CEO of AJW Aviation and AJW Technique, Clyde Buntrock.

“We are delighted to announce Louis’s promotion to president of AJW Technique,” said Buntrock. “His extensive experience and leadership qualities make him the perfect fit to lead our world-class MRO facility to even greater heights.”

Mallette shared his excitement, adding, “I am honored and excited to take on this new role at AJW Technique. I look forward to working closely with the team to drive innovation, operational excellence, and growth in the aviation industry.”

Mallette’s promotion underscores AJW Group’s core value of ‘growth’ both as a business and growth of its people. AJW has a commitment to fostering talent and promoting from within and in so doing further solidifying its position as a leader in the aviation sector. As AJW Group continues to expand its global footprint, Mallette’s leadership will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in shaping the company’s future trajectory.

SIA Engineering Company Appointed as Strategic Partner by Air India for Development of Base Maintenance Facilities in India

SIA Engineering Company Appointed as Strategic Partner by Air India for Development of Base Maintenance Facilities in India

Mainboard-listed SIA Engineering Company Limited (SIAEC) has been appointed by Air India as its base maintenance strategic partner for the development, of Air India’s BM facilities located in Bangalore, India.

As part of the partnership, SIAEC will work closely with Air India on the planning, construction, development and operationalization of Air India’s BM facilities in Bangalore. Projected to be ready in 2026, the base maintenance facilities will comprise both widebody and narrowbody hangars, including associated repair shops, to support the growing MRO needs of Air India Group’s aircraft fleet.

“We are delighted to be able to play a small part in Air India’s amazing transformation journey and look forward to working closely with the Air India team to ensure the success of this project,” said Chin Yau Seng, chief executive officer, SIAEC. “This appointment marks another significant milestone in the development of the partnership between Air India and SIAEC. Going forward, we hope to have even more opportunities to collaborate with Air India in the MRO space in India.”

Campbell Wilson, CEO and managing director, Air India, added: “The collaboration with SIA Engineering Company will not only help Air India become more self-reliant for the maintenance of its own fleet but it also reiterates our commitment to strengthen India’s aviation infrastructure by boosting the growth of the country’s MRO industry.”

CFM Advances LEAP Engine Health Monitoring

CFM Advances LEAP Engine Health Monitoring

CFM International has expanded its engine health monitoring capabilities with machine learning, to provide operators with more insights. The system now being used for CFM LEAP-1A and LEAP-1B engines models data from multiple engine sensors at takeoff, climb, and cruise via probabilistic diagnostic and prognostic machine learning tools. The company says these tools then provide targeted alerts based on known engine operating signatures. The operational models being generated are the most accurate the company has seen to date and are resulting in earlier detection of potential issues.

The system has been used extensively for more than a decade on CFM56 and other engines and, thus, benefits from the experience of a wide portfolio of products, a quality dataset, and deep domain expertise. The CFM LEAP engine is helping advance the state-of-the art in predictive maintenance.

“These state-of-the-art analytics are providing LEAP operators with the data they need to make informed, insightful decisions about fleet management,” said Agathe Venard, head of Fleet Data Engineering for CFM parent company Safran Aircraft Engines. “As a result, they gain a level of fleet stability they can rely on in their day-to-day operations.”

“With the combination of this health monitoring system and the expertise of our global CFM fleet support team, we have achieved 60% earlier lead time in identifying preventative maintenance recommendations, a 45% increase in detection rates and cut the number of false alerts in half over the past decade,” said David Harper, fleet support director for CFM parent company GE Aerospace.

New Logistics Center Enables Lufthansa Technik AERO Alzey to Grow

New Logistics Center Enables Lufthansa Technik AERO Alzey to Grow

In the presence of Daniela Schmitt (Minister for Economic Affairs, Transport, Agriculture and Viticulture of Rhineland-Palatinate), Steffen Jung (Mayor of Alzey), Heiner Illing (Member of the Rhineland-Palatinate state parliament), and Heiko Sippel (District Administrator of the Alzey-Worms district), the construction work, which began in March, has now been officially inaugurated. The new building will serve as a storage and logistics center for aircraft engines and engine spare parts for Lufthansa Technik AERO Alzey. This will expand the already 242,000 square feet of factory premises, with an additional logistics area of approximately 110,000 square feet.

The 100% subsidiary of Lufthansa Technik AG repairs and overhauls engines for regional and business aircraft as well as the latest generation of engines for medium-range jets in Alzey. Additionally, it offers further services such as a round-the-clock on-site service or leasing solutions. The project developer for this project is Timbra Real Estate Project Development Alzey. “More and more customers from all over the world want to have their engines overhauled by us. With Timbra and Goldbeck we have the right partners to create more space for this growth in Alzey,” explains Tobias Baumgart, chief operating officer of Lufthansa Technik AERO Alzey.

Lufthansa Aero Alzey

The construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2024. “This ‘ambitious’ implementation period is made possible by the excellent cooperation with the authorities, the planning and construction companies and the Lufthansa Technik AERO Alzey team,” says Martin Gerkhardt, one of the managing directors of the Timbra Group, expressly thanking everyone involved.

“With our systematized construction method, we are realizing a future-oriented building for the Lufthansa Technik subsidiary in Alzey economically, quickly, and sustainably,” explains Joerg Weiland, branch manager from Goldbeck. “The resulting improvement in logistics processes contributes to faster movement of engine parts and enables optimal supply to production,” adds Tobias Baumgart from Lufthansa Technik AERO Alzey. In their speeches, the participants emphasized the importance of this project for the future of Lufthansa Technik AERO Alzey and praised the collaboration of all involved in making this milestone possible.

Sustainability plays a significant role in planning and construction. While high-tech aviation parts are ready for use in the building, a photovoltaic system on the hall roof reduces the CO2 emissions of logistics and production processes. In addition, the entire roof area is greened. The industrial underfloor heating is combined with a highly efficient heat pump. Through these measures, the building will receive a gold certification from the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB).

“We are aware of our responsibility for people and nature — by constructing the new building we are creating the potential for further growth and thus important jobs. At the same time, we are meeting the highest standards of sustainable construction,” says Rubin Siddique, CEO of Lufthansa Technik AERO Alzey.

Can You Hear Me Now? Advanced Avionics Repair and Testing

Can You Hear Me Now? Advanced Avionics Repair and Testing

Repairing and testing avionics systems ensures they are in good condition and working as intended to keep aircraft flying safely.

By Mark Robins

Avionics repair and test equipment and procedures are integral to maintaining the reliability, efficiency, and safety of aviation operations. A wide spectrum of sophisticated equipment and tools can diagnose and troubleshoot issues and conduct necessary repairs or replacements to ensure the optimal functioning of aircraft electronics. They can help detect and fix wear, damage or malfunction in the avionics components, wiring, connectors, antennas and software via manufacturers’ specifications and the regulatory standards. Aviation Maintenance spoke to several leaders in avionics repair and test equipment to take the pulse of this niche market.

Louis MalletteSVP Operations, AJW Technique
Louis Mallette
SVP Operations, AJW Technique

“Repairs and testing procedures involve maintaining and troubleshooting intricate electronic components such as radio and communications systems, radar systems, flight management computers, autopilot and navigation systems,” says Louis Mallette, president, AJW Technique, Montréal, Canada. “These activities help identify and rectify any malfunctions or discrepancies in avionics systems ensuring they operate at optimal levels.”

Avtech, previously in Miami, was amalgamated with Muirhead Avionics at a new facility near London Heathrow (LHR) in the UK late last year. Both are part of the larger Ametek MRO, a global MRO services provider to the commercial, regional and general aviation aftermarkets with 12 locations around the world. Muirhead Avionics specializes in avionics services including MRO, sales, modifications and flight recorder transcription. “Muirhead Avionics continue to seek strategic partnerships with OEMs to support overflow, customer service, reach and global coverage,” says David Bentley, division vice president and business unit manager. Bentley also says Muirhead’s strong relationships with its current channel partners ensures OEM training, approved test equipment, up-to-date software/adapters, shared technical data as and when it is new and OEM spares.

“The recent move of Muirhead Avionics and Avtech to Langley near LHR allows us to tap into a large catchment area being close to the international airport and also the UK’s arterial road network,” Bentley says.

Shown here are a group of Duncan Aviation Component Services bench technicians. Electronics troubleshooting takes years of experience to master, according to Dustin Johnson at Duncan Aviation. “Avionics repair is one of the few electronics areas performed mainly by manually troubleshooting down to a component level and then having that mechanical or electronic component replaced by a trained electronics technician,” Johnson says. Duncan Aviation image.
Shown here are a group of Duncan Aviation Component Services bench technicians. Electronics troubleshooting takes years of experience to master, according to Dustin Johnson at Duncan Aviation. “Avionics repair is one of the few electronics areas performed mainly by manually troubleshooting down to a component level and then having that mechanical or electronic component replaced by a trained electronics technician,” Johnson says. Duncan Aviation image.

Repair and Testing Procedures

Avionics testing is generally done using automated test equipment (ATE) in which the equipment undergoes a full functional test. This can highlight specific failure areas in the component and then record necessary data, noting failures or routine operations. Automated testing can be completed in a fraction of the time it takes to complete manually, freeing up a technician’s time to work on other units.

“At our FAA Part 145 Repair Station, we utilize ATE to assess and validate the effectiveness of repairs,” says Dror Yahav, chief executive officer, Universal Avionics, Tucson, Ariz. “Our advanced surface mount technology rework processes ensure top-notch quality in the repair of circuit card assemblies (CCA). Previously, technicians performed tests and board repairs manually, which takes longer to complete, requires more training, and has a higher risk of human error. The introduction of automated testing and cutting-edge CCA rework technology has significantly enhanced our capacity to respond to customer repair orders while guaranteeing safety through effective repair services.”

Lincoln, Neb.-based Duncan Aviation’s avionics technicians troubleshoot avionics units based on experience and knowledge. With decades of hands-on experience, they can see trends, know which units or components within the units have a high failure rate, and often perform preventive maintenance.

Component Services bench technicians.

Electronics troubleshooting takes years of experience to master, according to Dustin Johnson, assistant manager component services at Duncan Aviation. “Avionics repair is one of the few electronics areas performed mainly by manually troubleshooting down to a component level and then having that mechanical or electronic component replaced by a trained electronics technician,” Johnson says.

It all starts with troubleshooting,” Johnson says. “Before any repair or testing can occur, the cause of the squawk must be determined through the act of troubleshooting. Proper and effective electronics troubleshooting takes many years of experience to master. Avionics repair is one of the few electronics areas performed mainly by manually troubleshooting down to a component level and then having that mechanical or electronic component replaced by a trained electronics technician. Testing is always performed as per the component maintenance manual or approved procedure.”

David BentleyDivision VP, Muirhead Avionics
David Bentley
Division VP, Muirhead Avionics

Muirhead’s Bentley adds, “Troubleshooting has evolved from highly experienced technicians, who can fault-find at the control board level, to automated fault finding. But the traditional skills still play a key role, no matter how good the ATE is.”

Primary aircraft communication, navigation and surveillance (CNS) systems are some of the most common avionics components according to Matthew Harrah, senior vice president of technology and products for Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics, Wichita, Kansas, that demand repair and testing. “This is everything from instruments and displays in the panel that provide the flight crew with critical information (attitude, airspeed, engine data, etc.) to navigation and communication systems such as VOR/TACAN receivers and radios to transponders/IFF systems that form the surveillance and air traffic control components at the aircraft. Each of these systems will have specific equipment for test and return to service, with the best example being Air Data test sets that measure absolute and differential pressure in air data systems (i.e., altimeters, vertical speed and airspeed indicators), which are typically thought of as pitot and static pressures.”

Muirhead’s capabilities cover navigation, communication, flight data recorders, cockpit voice recorders, instrumentation and test equipment. Muirhead Avionics image.
Muirhead’s capabilities cover navigation, communication, flight data recorders, cockpit voice recorders, instrumentation and test equipment. Muirhead Avionics image.

More Advanced

As today’s modern aircraft has become much more technologically advanced, so have the avionics repair and testing procedures and equipment that maintain it. Avionics components have evolved significantly over the years, progressing from principally analogue electronics in the 1980s to the latest digital technologies today with an increase of microprocessors embedded in aeronautics.

“As the world continues to evolve into a more digital event, automated testing has grown significantly,” Harrah says. “This has allowed avionics repair stations to access more data about the given component to improve the percentage of successful repairs in less time, while finding pending and latent failures that may not have been observable to technicians or flight crew.”

Mallette explains, “The testing of avionics components has become significantly more intensive, driven by new testing standards from the aircraft manufacturers and equipment OEMs to drive increased reliability and enhance safety on modern platforms. As an example, the number of test points performed during a typical avionics’ unit test is now easily 10 to 100 times what it would have been 20 years ago. ATE performance has clearly improved over the years and in conjunction with more efficient test software, has not increased the overall test time.”

Advanced and improved logging of flight log data from individual components has come with reduced memory cost and improved processing. Harrah says this has enabled more data to be recorded for post-flight analysis to improve overall dispatch reliability and reduce AOG issues by highlighting components that are in declining health/performance.

To increase efficiency, Duncan Aviation has invested in new testing and diagnostic technology that reduces the time it takes to evaluate a printed circuit board (PCB). This system evaluates PCB quality control and quickly diagnoses failures by identifying the areas of the board that are not functioning properly.

“Muirhead Avionics continues to embrace higher and more advanced technologies to improve our technicians’ technical ability to support repairs at every level and provide future partners with the confidence that [we] can handle the ever-evolving latest technological developments,” Muirhead’s Bentley says.

Mid-Continent’s Harrah says AI will be used in the future of avionics repair “to better understand performance trends and enable more proactive replacement of components.” The goal would be to reduce, and possibly eliminate, scheduled interruptions and AOG events, he says. Mid-Continent image.
Mid-Continent’s Harrah says AI will be used in the future of avionics repair “to better understand performance trends and enable more proactive replacement of components.” The goal would be to reduce, and possibly eliminate, scheduled interruptions and AOG events, he says. Mid-Continent image.

High Tech Out of Necessity

High-tech advancements have empowered maintenance personnel with innovative tools and techniques to ensure the continued reliability and safety of MRO operations and in so doing, of the aircraft operations. Avionics repair and testing has evolved in ways technicians could not have dreamed of even 20 years ago.

“There will be a tight labor market in the future, which will result in a large talent/recruitment gap at the OEMs,” says Bentley. “Therefore, via specialist partnerships AMETEK MRO has positioned itself all over the world to be able to provide avionics repair services that cater to the many technologies produced by OEMs. This helps the OEMs share the demand for component repair and overhaul, yet remain stable and retain control.”

Harrah explains that machine learning is a good first step toward artificial intelligence (AI). “It has been used to help analyze flight log data to help catch pending failures or degraded performance. AI is a logical next step beyond machine learning in analyzing avionics flight log data, including Built-In-Test (BIT), to better understand performance trends and enable more proactive replacement of components. This would reduce, and one day hopefully eliminate, scheduled interruptions and AOG events.” Johnson predicts that as AI gets more intelligent it will become a great tool to quickly locate information for assistance in troubleshooting avionics systems and answering all types of questions.

“Muirhead Avionics is not looking at AI for repair as the OEMs’ component maintenance manuals are the technical bibles of any MRO,” says Bentley. “But we are looking into opportunities for spares linked to provisioning data,” he adds. “Watch this space.”

Dror YahavCEO, Universal Avionics
Dror Yahav
CEO, Universal Avionics

Universal Avionics’ second Grand Challenge competition encouraged employees across the organization to explore how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used to streamline the development of procedures. This resulted in not just one, but four unique projects being continued to transform operations with AI, from document generation to software testing and verification. This reflects on how the company leverages the latest technological advancements to enhance the quality of its services to ensure safety, efficiency, customer satisfaction and cost savings. “We are continuously implementing software improvements to support emerging products and leverage cloud technologies to further benefit from these advancements,” Yahav says.

Matthew HarrahSVP, Mid - Continent Instruments and Avionics
Matthew Harrah
SVP, Mid – Continent Instruments and Avionics

The Cloud provides a simplified means of putting the data in a location to be analyzed. It is significantly more accessible to aircraft data. Coupled with the evolution of systems that can pull data off the aircraft over the air (OTA), such as Wi-Fi, terrestrial communication systems like ATG, SATCOM or simple cellular modems, the Cloud has made the data both more accessible and, in many cases, able to be processed in near real time. Harrah says, “This is a major improvement to the days of ‘the sneaker-net’ where a technician needed to access a serial port, download data to a laptop, then email or upload and wait for human analysis. Today’s integrated maintenance systems can, in some cases, allow a technician to see the status of all avionics systems and many other aircraft systems almost instantly upon touch-down of the aircraft.”

Another significant repair advancement is using predictive maintenance techniques enabled by data analytics and machine learning algorithms. By analyzing vast amounts of data collected from aircraft sensors and systems, predictive maintenance can anticipate potential failures before they occur, allowing for proactive maintenance actions. This approach minimizes downtime, reduces maintenance costs, and enhances overall aircraft reliability.

While predictive maintenance is a growing trend, Mallette believes its adoption within the aviation industry varies significantly among different stakeholders, reflecting diverse levels of technological readiness and strategic approaches. “These challenges must be addressed to foster more collaboration and to achieve widespread adoption to the benefit of the industry.”

Mallette also notes the innovation of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) has enabled AJW’s maintenance technicians to visualize complex systems and components in a virtual environment, facilitating training, troubleshooting and repair tasks. AR and VR also provide interactive step-by-step guidance during maintenance procedures, improving efficiency and accuracy while reducing human error.

Digitalization has streamlined the management of work orders, shop planning and scheduling, and parts pre-provisioning processes during the past few years, according to AJW Technique’s Louis Mallette. AJW Technique image.
Digitalization has streamlined the management of work orders, shop planning and scheduling, and parts pre-provisioning processes during the past few years, according to AJW Technique’s Louis Mallette. AJW Technique image.

A Repair and Test Digital Transformation

Digital transformation within avionics repair and test workshops has positively affected workflow management and efficiency during the repair process. At AJW Technique, due to digitalization, Mallette says the management of work orders, shop planning and scheduling, and parts pre-provisioning processes have all made great strides over the past few years. “Furthermore, BI (Business Intelligence) reporting provides a greater visibility of the factory performance at a macro level while also facilitating easy status visibility at an individual work order level. This has supported an improvement in overall efficiency and enables us to maintain short repair turnaround time cycles whilst optimizing technician capacity and inventory holdings.”

The digital age of avionics has impacted the level of skill and education needed by the technicians performing repairs and testing. Johnson says Duncan Aviation bench-level repair technicians receive two years of formal education specializing in electrical and electronic theory. “Even with the new advancement of digital technology, there will always be a demand for quality component-level work.”

Beyond the FAA Part 145 maintenance, repair, and overhaul facilities, Universal is supporting line maintenance technicians by employing mixed reality technology. One example is the use of Microsoft HoloLens for remote field support, which allows field technicians to quickly guide users through step-by-step solutions using a head-wearable device.

“By blending the digital world and the real world, our field service engineers can remotely support technicians with troubleshooting and testing of systems in the aircraft,” Yahav says. Universal engineers can virtually pass along documents that the remote technician can see inside the headset, all while discussing any issues and resolving problems in real-time. Fielding of this technology has been quite beneficial for our field service engineers, enabling them to assist multiple customers worldwide in configuring, testing, and troubleshooting aircraft avionics.”

Obsolescence of electronics components is a real issue both for the maintenance of the automated test equipment as well as for the avionics components themselves. AJW Technique image.
Obsolescence of electronics components is a real issue both for the maintenance of the automated test equipment as well as for the avionics components themselves. AJW Technique image.

Repair and Test Obsolescence

Generally, repair and testing procedures remain similar throughout the life of the components. However, Mallette says, obsolescence, especially of electronics components, is a real issue both for the maintenance of the automated test equipment as well as for the avionics components.

Obsolescence is a significant problem, particularly post-Covid-19 shutdowns that had a major impact on supply chains. Harrah says many legacy component suppliers for piece-parts needed for repair were small and struggled to bridge the gap between Spring 2020 and 2021. “Therefore, a lot of the smaller suppliers went out of business. Those that did survive increased pricing as demand also started to increase. This has expanded into older test equipment as well. Many repair stations are looking at new test equipment, which in turn drives costs that must be addressed in repair pricing. Some manufacturers of avionics also started to accelerate the end of support due to the period of low demand in this same timeframe. That has left many legacy avionics beyond economical repair (BER). Some shops, like ours, have been able to develop some PMA parts replacements to enable older equipment to be serviced, as well as using our own engineering to sustain our test equipment.”

Yahav explains one challenge obsolescence presents within MROs is the need for procedural changes, which also requires updated documentation and training. “Industry advancements in technical publications include advanced digital standards and a common source database structure. We are also leveraging AI for documentation development, which ensures efficient and accurate implementation of procedural changes. Combined with the critical thinking and problem-solving skills of our avionics and electronic repair personnel, we can adapt to these changes quickly.”

An Exciting Field

Today’s technologically advanced world makes repairing and testing avionics an exciting field. It requires specialized training, an aptitude for critical thinking and people who can integrate the digital with the mechanical to solve problems. Yahav believes that while accurate procedures and technologically advanced equipment can improve efficiency and ensure quality, it is really the individuals doing the work that are crucial to the success of any MRO operation.

Narrowbody Engine Maintenance Market is Strong!

Narrowbody Engine Maintenance Market is Strong!

The airline industry’s enduring love for cost-effective narrowbody aircraft is driving strong growth in the narrowbody engine maintenance market. This growth is good news for MROs that service these engines — such as Aero Norway, MTU Maintenance, StandardAero, and ST Engineering — plus companies such as AJW Group that support these MROs with narrowbody engine parts.

Mark Thompson VP Sales, StandardAero
Mark Thompson
VP Sales, StandardAero

Airline Traffic Driving Growth

The main reason the narrowbody engine market is very healthy is due to the strong recovery of the single-aisle segment, said Mark Thompson, vice president of sales, Americas & Asia-Pacific, with StandardAero’s airlines & fleets team in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“Per Aviation Week, narrowbody aircraft utilization during Q1 2024 was up 10% compared to the same period in 2019, while widebody utilization was still down 1%,” Thompson told Aviation Maintenance magazine. “As a result, MRO demand for CFM56-5B and -7B engines remains high, due the large, active installed base — 45% of which has yet to undergo their first shop visits — amplified by the popularity of mature types such as the A320ceo and Boeing 737 NG as ‘fill-ins’ for new generation airliner fleets impacted by the recent GTF powdered metal issue.”

Tay Eng Guan SVP/GM, ST Engineering
Tay Eng Guan SVP/GM, ST Engineering

“The demand for narrowbody engine maintenance is strong thanks to airlines resuming flying activities post-Covid and consequently requiring more shop visits for their fleets’ engines,” agreed Tay Eng , senior vice president/general manager, engine services, with ST Engineering in Singapore. “Moreover, during the pandemic, airlines had delayed MRO work by parking unserviceable engines aside and relying on their serviceable engine pools, resulting in pent-up demand for engine maintenance,” he said. “This is why, across the industry, we are seeing high demand for CFM56 heavy maintenance and quick-turn services for the LEAP engines even as MRO slot availability is limited.”

Christian Ludwig COO, MTU Maintenance Zhuhai
Christian Ludwig COO, MTU Maintenance Zhuhai

This same positive trend is being reported by MTU Maintenance Zhuhai in China. “Demand strongly recovered throughout 2023, with a strong ongoing demand for CFM56 shop visits, especially the -7B model,” said Christian Ludwig, the company’s chief operations officer. “Of course, we continue to see early technical removals and shop visits coming our way from newer engine models such as the PW1100G-JM and PW1500G, as well as the LEAP. In addition, we are seeing a continued but softening demand for hub project shop visits on the V2500.”

By proportion, the MTU Maintenance network performs the largest number of shop visits for the V2500, followed by GTF engines, the CFM56-7B and its -5B sibling, and LEAP engines. “It is interesting to note that demand for lower thrust engine variants has picked up recently,” Ludwig said. “Over the past few years, these engines have tended to only come into the shop after their host aircraft (usually an A319 or 737-600/700) had been retired and the engines needed conversion to a higher thrust variant for use on a larger aircraft variant. Recently, such engines are being overhauled and remain in service.”

Half a world away, the news is also good for Aero Norway AS. “The demand for narrowbody engine MRO remains strong, with CFM56 engines powering a range of aircraft including the Boeing 737 series and certain Airbus A320/A319 models,” said company CEO Neil Russell. “Additionally, CFM International LEAP engines are propelling newer versions of the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX. As these modern aircraft are being delivered and integrated into service, the demand for maintenance services for LEAP engines is steadily rising.”

As AJW Group’s director of engines, whose company provides parts to MROs worldwide, Wasim Akhtar has a global view of the narrowbody engine maintenance market. Based on this perspective, “the demand for narrowbody engine maintenance is currently soaring primarily due to postponed shop visits and OEM delays,” he said. “The upturn in demand is further driven by the ongoing recovery of leisure and business travel.”

Based on AJW Group’s parts sales, “the highest demand is for the CFM56-5B, CFM56-7B tech insertion (TI) configuration and select 1 and 2 when it comes to V2500-A5,” said Akhtar. “Operators are prioritizing these newer engine configurations to align with environmental regulations and sustainability goals. Meanwhile, based on our current knowledge and understanding, the market can expect approximately 1,500-2,000 shop visits for the CFM56-5B and CFM56-7B engines, as half of this current twenty thousand strong fleet is yet to go through their first shop visits.”

Varied and Wide-Ranging

According to the experts interviewed for this article, the range of maintenance being performed on narrowbody engines is varied and wide-ranging. “It depends on a number of factors, including the age of the engines, their maintenance history, and their operating environments,” MTU’s Ludwig said. “While mature engine types see it all, newer engine types come as so-called quick turns, touching one or two modules only, or SBs on externals.”

Over at StandardAero, “we are seeing demand for the spectrum of MRO service offerings, from full performance restoration shop visits (PRSVs) to quick-turn (or hospital) shop visits, which offer a fraction of the time-on-wing of a PRSV, albeit at lower cost,” said Thompson. “This demand for hospital shop/quick-turn engine services was a key driver behind StandardAero’s decision to establish additional CFM56-7B MRO capabilities at our DFW International Airport location. We are also seeing demand for module swaps and green time engines, as supported by our PTS Aviation asset management subsidiary.”

This being said, ST Engineering’s Tay is seeing some patterns emerging. “For CFM56 engines, the most common forms of maintenance are core engine performance restoration and full performance restoration that typically involve replacing life-limited parts,” he noted. “Meanwhile, for LEAP engines, a common maintenance task would be to address LEAP-1A high-pressure turbine distress; preparations are also underway to manage similar challenges in LEAP-1B engines for high-pressure turbine and combustor distress. Additionally, we are gearing up to accommodate retrofitting needs for the reverse bleed system in both LEAP-1A and LEAP-1B engines.”

Aero Norway is seeing both patterns and variety. The reason? “As the CFM56 series of engines is modular, the total cycles fluctuate across all major modules and different operators and owners have different needs, so the workscopes can be very varied,” said Russell. “These can range from complete LLP (life limited parts) changes and performance restoration, to changing out a fan containment case.”

As for factoring in some degree of predictability into the narrowbody engine maintenance process? According to AJW’s Akhtar, this should be possible. “This is because the narrowbody engine types are primarily maintained on a conditioned basis, as per the OEM guidelines,” he explained. “At the same time, operators and lessors are investing in the maintenance of older aircraft to keep them in service due to the current supply chain issues with the new aircraft and engine types.”

This continued use of older narrowbody aircraft does result in a more diverse and mature range of engines in the market, said Akhtar, which brings extra challenges for MROs and airlines alike. “For example, booming demand for engine parts has driven up prices and OEMs have seized the opportunity to capitalize on this demand,” he said.

Supply Chains, Staffing Lead Times Top List of Challenges

Wasim Ahktar’s point about the booming demand for parts points to one of three top challenges facing MROs and suppliers alike in the narrowbody engine maintenance market. Even though covid-19’s shakeup of the world economy is chronologically years in the past, “Supply chain disruption is the primary challenge associated with the MRO of these engines,” said Russell. “Despite our efforts at Aero Norway to strategically plan ahead for materials and induction slots, the existing conditions at vendors and in the aftermarket can result in longer lead times.”

Wasim AkhtarDirector of engines, AJW Group
Wasim Akhtar
Director of engines, AJW Group

MTU is experiencing similar problems. “Supply chain pressures are still persistent and with fewer aircraft retirements than anticipated and fewer respective engine teardowns, the parts supply market remains tight,” Ludwig said. “So getting your hands on used serviceable parts — and new parts for any generation engine — in a timely manner is a big challenge, which then translates into longer turnaround times. We are seeing this across the industry.”

The good news? According to Ludwig, there have been some supply chain improvements associated with the CFM56 parts market in recent months. “But for new generation engines and the V2500, used serviceable material is still experiencing constraints.”

ST Engineering says they are ready to address LEAP-1A high-pressure turbine distress and preparing to manage similar challenges in LEAP-1B engines for high-pressure turbine and combustor distress. ST Engineering image.
ST Engineering says they are ready to address LEAP-1A high-pressure turbine distress and preparing to manage similar challenges in LEAP-1B engines for high-pressure turbine and combustor distress. ST Engineering image.

With demand outstripping supply, the impact on parts’ prices has been predictable. According to Akhtar, the catalog list prices of new parts have gone up by about 12%, which means the market value of used parts has also gone up. As well, “the market is still being influenced by the challenges in the OEM sector post- pandemic, more specifically the availability and delivery schedules of engines,” he said. “It is going to be well beyond 2026 before we see an alleviation in this situation. By then, the shop visits would have peaked and the engines we deal with will still be worthwhile repairing and using for component supply. Scheduled aircraft retirements will improve the parts supply over time, which will soften the current demand to some extent, but this won’t happen anytime soon.”

Staffing is the second top challenge confronting the narrowbody engine maintenance market. Simply put, “there is a general shortage of new young talent to fill the vacancies on the shop floors that are left behind by retiring technical staff within the industry,” said Ludwig. Add supply chain issues, and “there is a bottleneck situation at the repair shops due to labor issues further escalated by the shortage of raw materials,” Tay said. To exacerbate the human resources issue, “newer engines such as LEAP engines have more complex designs that include advanced technologies and composite materials. To maintain these engines, the workforce must possess the required expertise and capabilities.”

These first two problems combine to create the narrowbody engine maintenance industry’s third top challenge: Long lead-times, both for booking maintenance work at MROs and then actually getting the jobs done. In fact, the biggest change since Covid for MROs and airlines alike are “shop visit lead times, due both to the high demand for engine slots plus continuing shortages associated with certain engine parts,” said Thompson. “While StandardAero has always pursued a ‘repair rather than replace’ philosophy wherever practical, and while our component services team does have in-house parts manufacturing capabilities, we still rely on original equipment (OE) vendors for certain parts, and the supply chain remains in a fragile state in the aftermath of the pandemic.”

StandardAero says their 810,000 square foot San Antonio, Texas, facility is now also accepting inductions for LEAP-1A and LEAP-1B continued time engine maintenance (CTEM) workscopes. Full PRSV capabilities will come on line later this year. StandardAero image.
StandardAero says their 810,000 square foot San Antonio, Texas, facility is now also accepting inductions for LEAP-1A and LEAP-1B continued time engine maintenance (CTEM) workscopes. Full PRSV capabilities will come on line later this year. StandardAero image.

Fighting Back

Faced with this trio of challenges, the companies interviewed for this story are fighting back on behalf of their narrowbody engine maintenance clients with a series of strategies — with a general focus on the CFM56 family of engines.

Neil Russell, CEO, Aero Norway
Neil Russell, CEO, Aero Norway

At Aero Norway, “our focus is on the CFM56-5B and 7B for some time, which will bring us efficiencies across our company and reduce TAT (turnaround time) due to the commonality across these two platforms,” Russell said. “We do have a CFMI license for LEAP 1A and 1B maintenance, but our plan is to start with light workscopes and build up our capability over time. Our goal is to have one LEAP engine in the shop this year, but we have not shouted about it yet because the demand would distract us from our current strategy.”

StandardAero also sees a benefit in focusing on CFM56s. Specifically, “we are responding to the demand for CFM56-7B MRO by expanding our global MRO capacity for the type, with our ‘traditional’ Winnipeg, MB CFM56-7B MRO location now augmented by additional capability at our DFW International Airport location,” said Thompson. “Originally opened as a hospital shop location last year, this location now offers full engine testing capabilities, with overhaul level services to be added later this year. At the same time, our 810,000 square foot San Antonio, Texas, facility is now also accepting inductions for LEAP-1A and LEAP-1B continued time engine maintenance (CTEM) workscopes, with full PRSV capabilities due to come on line later this year.”

ST Engineering is taking even bigger steps to ease the narrowbody engine maintenance bottleneck. “To meet the rising demand for CFM56 and LEAP engine services, we are doubling our capacity by enlarging the shop floor and office space,” Tay said. “The new engine MRO capacity located within our existing sites will also be complemented by additional warehousing facilities. In gearing up for LEAP MRO demand, we are setting up engine testing capabilities for LEAP-1A and LEAP-1B engines by mid-2024, followed by full performance restoration shop visit capability for both engines by 2025.”

As for coping with the trio of challenges specifically? “To manage supply chain issues, we are working with customers on rotable purchases and with suppliers on used serviceable material supply, as well as strengthening our relationships with key suppliers,” said Tay.

Meanwhile, MTU Maintenance is trying to reduce its reliance on the supply chain by repairing as many engine parts as is reasonably possible. “After all, repair beats replacement, especially in times of long delivery periods and low availability,” Ludwig observed. This is why MTU Maintenance Serbia has a shop solely devoted to repairing high-value parts for CFM56, V2500 and PW1100G-JM engines. In addition, MTU Maintenance Lease Services is teaming up with industry partners to acquire decommissioned aircraft with still serviceable engines in order to boost the network’s stock levels.

Then there’s staffing. “To fortify our talent pipeline, we are actively recruiting technicians with efforts that include collaborations with technical institutes and universities to attract and train students for careers in aviation maintenance,” said Tay. “By investing in robotics and automation, we aim to cut down on routine work by our employees to maximize labor efficiency, while providing them with comprehensive training to ensure that the quality of our MRO work remains high at all times.”

Interestingly, MTU Maintenance is not experiencing a serious staffing shortage. “This is because we were among the very few MRO service providers who did not cut staff during the pandemic,” Ludwig said. “In fact, we actually continued hiring and invested significantly in our locations, because we were always confident that the market would return.” As well, MTU has established learning centers and partnered with academic institutions in Canada, China, and Serbia to give aspiring mechanics all the necessary tools to succeed and exceed at MTU, including opportunities to work across our global network.”

By improving supply chain and staffing issues, these MROs are able to work on reducing lead times for the customers. But Aero Norway has another trick up its sleeve when it comes to improving TAT. “Due to our varied workscopes, we are able to adapt how our production is run to tailor to the different customer needs,” said Russell. “As we are an agile and independent engine MRO facility, our size enables us to offer creative and efficient solutions that benefit our existing customers.”

The Future Looks Bright

Clearly, the narrowbody engine maintenance market is enjoying a happy period of prosperity after the pandemic’s economic pandemonium. Better yet, the prospects for a profitable future look just as promising.

“The narrowbody engine MRO market is poised to continue growing, driven by escalating air travel demand, fleet expansions by low-cost carriers, and the retirement of aging aircraft,” Tay said. ”To meet the evolving needs of this market, we anticipate a surge in the adoption of technologies such as data analytics, automation, additive manufacturing and robotics to drive productivity improvements, and operational resilience.”

“We expect the narrowbody engine market to expand significantly over the coming years,” Akhtar said. “For one thing, many airlines are opting for leasing engines to avoid the substantial upfront costs associated with purchases and heavy restorations, which should increase supply overall. For another, the uptick in demand for used engine parts is having a notable impact on AJW’s engine and MRO business, and as such, the Group is investing heavily in narrowbody aircraft and engines to meet the growing demand.”

This being said, some narrowbody engines have a brighter future in store than others.

“We expect demand for CFM56-5B/7B shop visits to peak in the next year or two, with demand remaining strong from at least the next decade if not longer,” said Thompson. “Meanwhile, demand for CFM LEAP shop visits will quickly grow, thanks to the engine’s tremendous success in the marketplace and the gradual maturation of the in-service fleet.”

MTU’s Ludwig saw value in this assessment. “Legacy engines such as the original variants of the CFM56 (single annular combustor or SAC engines) will start phasing out of the industry at an increasing rate,” he said. “However, shop visit demand for the later Tech Insertion (TI), Performance Improvement Program (PIP) and Evolution (BE) variants will keep shops busy for quite some time. In fact, shop visits for the -5B and -7B should peak in two to three years’ time and remain high until about 2030, while the amount of CFM56 shop visits is expected to return to current levels by about 2033.”

Aero Norway’s Russell is more optimistic about the CFM56’s future as an MRO revenue source. “Engine upgrades on Airbus and Boeing narrowbody aircraft have significantly impacted the industry, extending airframe lifespans,” he explained. “Hence, while CFM56 engines are being replaced by LEAP engines on A320/A319 and 737 models, there remains a substantial MRO market for CFM56 engines. Still, Aero Norway, as an independent engine MRO provider, is strategically transitioning to focus on servicing LEAP engines. We are dedicated to delivering LEAP 1A and 1B services by the end of 2024.”

All told, the story of the narrowbody engine maintenance market is one of growth and good prospects, despite the trio of challenges. This is exactly what MROs, their suppliers, and their airline customers want to hear!

Software a Must for Keeping Track of Spare Parts

Software a Must for Keeping Track of Spare Parts

Managing spare parts inventories in the aviation MRO sector is an extremely challenging task. In particular, accurately predicting which parts will be needed and maintaining a sufficient supply of them is an operational necessity. At the same time, keeping just the right levels of parts in inventory to meet demand, while not carrying excessive stock, is a financial imperative.

Factor in the still-unpredictable nature of parts failures, long lead times for obtaining specialized components, and the risk of counterfeit and/or stolen parts entering the supply chain, and managing spare parts inventories is no easy matter. But one thing is certain: without effective spare parts management, accurate tracking data, and processes in place, MROs can struggle to ensure that vital parts are available when needed — resulting in costly Aircraft Out of Service (AOS) situations along with money being lost by them and their clients.

It is for these reasons that spare parts management software solutions are so vital to the aviation MRO industry. Whether sold to MROs by companies such as Component Control, ePlane, Satair, and TRAX, or used by MRO suppliers such as APOC Aviation to make parts acquisition fast and easy, spare parts management solutions for MROs make all the difference in keeping their customers in business.

Spare Parts Management is More Difficult Than Ever

Ensuring an adequate and available supply of spare parts has been a constant problem for the aviation industry. “It is a large problem, and it’s been large forever,” said Daniel Tautges, senior vice president with Component Control.

Hardi JamilVP Sales,
APOC Aviation
Hardi Jamil
VP Sales,
APOC Aviation

“Managing spare parts inventory is a significant task, especially given the global scale and complexity of the aviation industry,” agreed Hardi Jamil, APOC Aviation’s vice president of component sales. “It involves balancing the needs for immediate availability of critical parts, the costs of storing and managing these parts, and the logistical challenges of distributing them worldwide. As fleets and technologies evolve, so does the complexity of managing these inventories.”

TRAX says their eMRO product allows complete information flow between the modules throughout the system. The software provides the means to manage and maintain all information generated by a maintenance organization, the company says. TRAX image.
TRAX says their eMRO product allows complete information flow between the modules throughout the system. The software provides the means to manage and maintain all information generated by a maintenance organization, the company says. TRAX image.

Then there’s the sheer volume and complexity of aviation spare parts that have to be sourced, stocked, provisioned, installed, and replaced. But that’s not all: “Spare parts inventory management is a substantial task in industries like aviation where the accuracy and availability of parts are crucial to daily operations,” said Jeremy Cole, director of technical business development with ePlaneAI. “Managing these inventories involves handling tens of thousands of parts across multiple locations and requires precise coordination to ensure that parts are available when needed without excessive stock that ties up capital.”

Miguel SosaVP Software Development,
TRAX
Miguel Sosa
VP Software Development,
TRAX

“This is why spare parts management is essential for avoiding AOS events and delays in scheduled maintenance and keeping aircraft in the air,” said Miguel Sosa, TRAX’s vice president of software development. “In particular, a streamlined supply chain is crucial for aviation operational efficiency.”

TRAX’s EzStock app is a materials management application that allows users to perform common inventory transactions through handheld iOS devices, and radio frequency scanners. Users can complete transactions at the point of use on their wireless device which results in real-time transaction processing, improved data accuracy and increased productivity, TRAX says. TRAX image.
TRAX’s EzStock app is a materials management application that allows users to perform common inventory transactions through handheld iOS devices, and radio frequency scanners. Users can complete transactions at the point of use on their wireless device which results in real-time transaction processing, improved data accuracy and increased productivity, TRAX says. TRAX image.

Sosa then makes a very valid point: “Maintaining optimal stock levels isn’t just about avoiding excess inventory or stock outages; it’s about making informed decisions that impact the bottom line.” he noted. And he is correct: When it comes to cost-effective spare parts management, it really is all about the bottom line, because inventory sitting unused for any unnecessary length of time is money left sitting on a shelf.

“As such, the biggest challenge in managing spare parts inventory is creating a synthesis of actual and forecasted usages based on real-time data,” said Sosa. “It is for this reason that TRAX developed eMRO as an enterprise solution that fully integrates the maintenance program planning with the necessary supply chain requirements.”

Daniel TautgesComponent Control,
SVP
Daniel Tautges
Component Control,
SVP

Unfortunately, the challenges associated with spare parts management have become more daunting since Covid-19. The reason: “The airlines are flying older aircraft, either because they can’t get new products out of Boeing or they’ve had issues with the Maxs,” Tautges said. This means that there is more demand for older parts, some of which are in short supply.

“On a global scale, inventory levels in our industry are still low compared to pre-Covid,” said Dr. Sascha Horatzek, Satair’s vice president of supply chain. “With the continuous lack of aircraft capacity in the market, the pressure on spare parts availability has drastically increased. Everyone knows that a single missing part can keep an aircraft grounded.”

Detecting Stolen Parts and SUPs

No part? No business. It’s safe to say that not having the part in stock will lose you money. However, the situation gets trickier when you think there is a part in stock, only to discover it was stolen from somewhere else or — worse yet — belongs to the family of Suspected Unapproved Parts (SUPs). This is why managing spare parts using a sophisticated IT solution can make their detection straightforward and reliable.

One thing is certain: These uncertified, untested counterfeits are such a threat to aircraft safety, that the FAA and EASA have dedicated individual web resources to their detection. “The FAA is committed to discovering and removing Suspected Unapproved Parts (SUP),” said the FAA website. “This page lists the Unapproved Parts (UP) confirmed cases, the SUP cases under investigation, and the Stolen Parts cases according to Safety Information Bulletin (SIB) No.: 2017-13R1, issued: 24/10/2018,” the EASA page declared.

“SUPs are a critical safety concern in the tightly regulated aviation industry,” Sosa said. “Worldwide, OEMs, MROs, airline operators, and regulatory agencies are taking renewed steps to safeguard against rogue parts. This is why the Trax eMRO solution aims to improve part tracking and documentation.”

Stolen parts come with their own risks, including falsified documents attesting to their condition and operational lifespans, and the liability costs that could occur if they fail in service. As a result, “counterfeit and stolen parts both pose serious safety risks,” said Jamil. “This is why APOC deploys stringent procurement processes, rigorous vetting of suppliers, and advanced tracking systems that ensure part authenticity and legal procurement.”

APOC’s Hardi Jamil says software solutions with features like real-time tracking, demand forecasting and logistics planning are crucial for parts management. APOC image.
APOC’s Hardi Jamil says software solutions with features like real-time tracking, demand forecasting and logistics planning are crucial for parts management. APOC image.

Cole agrees. “Counterfeit parts pose safety risks, potentially leading to critical failures. Stolen parts involve not only financial loss but also security breaches,” he said. “Addressing these issues requires robust tracking systems, stringent quality checks, and secure supply chain management.”

Jeremy ColeDirector Business Development, ePlaneAI
Jeremy Cole
Director Business Development, ePlaneAI

As a wholly-owned subsidiary of Airbus “counterfeit parts are not an issue at Satair,” said Horatzek; “thanks to us being integrated into Airbus’ quality assurance system and Satair procuring new parts from the same qualified production suppliers. However, we can experience issues stemming from out-of-production aircraft where parts supply is more difficult by nature compared to in-production aircraft.”

Silicon Valley is miles ahead of aviation in regards to the use of artificial intelligence. But AI and machine learning will play a role in demand planning and other areas, according to Satair’s Sascha Horatzek. Satair image.
Silicon Valley is miles ahead of aviation in regards to the use of artificial intelligence. But AI and machine learning will play a role in demand planning and other areas, according to Satair’s Sascha Horatzek. Satair image.

IT to the Rescue

Given the sheer scope of aviation spare parts management, relying on information technology (IT) platforms to address them is the only sensible approach to take. There’s just no way that a paper-based or even a spreadsheet solution can accurately and systematically handle this volume of ever-changing information. It requires a sophisticated IT solution to do the job properly.

Fortunately, there are several sophisticated software solutions available for spare parts management, including ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems, SCM (Supply Chain Management) software, and specialized inventory management platforms. “These tools offer features like real-time tracking, demand forecasting and logistics planning,” said Jamil. “APOC also integrates IoT (Internet of Things) and other technologies to improve traceability and inventory accuracy.”

As an ERP software vendor in the aviation aftermarket space, Component Control is in the right position to provide such solutions to MROs. “When you think about ERP, that’s really everything from finance to procurement to inventory to purchasing to selling warehousing,” Tautges said. “So every aspect within the company is driven by our software. The result: We have about 1,700 customers in 66 geographic locations all over the world. They’re either distributors, ROS, completion centers, or they’re OEMs.”

Of course, ‘knowing’ what part to keep where, and when to deliver it to who, is the magic of these IT systems. Now Tautges calls it a “science” — but whatever it is, the ability to provide such timely data is the bread and butter of the software companies who develop the algorithms to predict these things.

A case in point: “The primary challenges of stocking aviation spare parts include forecasting fluctuating demand, managing stock levels effectively, and avoiding both overstock and stockouts,” said Cole. “This is where predictive analytics and AI (artificial intelligence) driven tools like ePlaneAI enhance forecasting accuracy, allowing MROs to anticipate parts needs based on usage patterns and historical data. This technology helps maintain optimal inventory levels, reducing carrying costs while ensuring parts are available when needed.”

APOC also uses “predictive analytics to forecast these needs accurately,” Jamil said. “The goal is to minimize inventory costs while maximizing service levels, avoiding both surplus stock and parts shortages, which can lead to operational delays.”

In addition to the above, Satair “arbitrates relevant criteria such as customer satisfaction, cash investment and turn rate,” said Horatzek. “Satair is also one of the first industry players running the full process from demand forecasting to supply planning in SAP IBP (Integrated Business Planning), which is autonomously and continuously selecting the most suitable forecasting algorithm for a given parts number in order to increase forecast accuracy. Additionally, RPA (Robotic Process Automation) is vastly used along our Forecast-to-Inventory process. In the future, machine learning (ML) and AI will certainly play a role, particularly when it comes to demand forecasting or optimization of MRP settings.”

Satair isn’t the only spare parts management solution provider interested in AI. “While TRAX already has robust and comprehensive supply chain management functionality, we are committed to leveraging AI and ML to strengthen our eMRO solution,” Sosa said. “Machine learning algorithms can discover patterns and relationships within data sets that are often imperceptible to humans, thus allowing for more accurate forecasting and more economically efficient inventory management.”

To Blockchain or Not to Blockchain?

In recent years, the blockchain data recording system has been touted as a hackerproof way to recode and track aviation spare parts. For the record, “Blockchain is a secure database shared across a network of participants, where up-to-date information is available to all participants at the same time,” said the McKinsey & Company website. “Blockchain is a method of recording information that makes it impossible or difficult for the system to be changed, hacked, or manipulated.”

With this kind of bulletproof security, Blockchain is definitely a robust approach to spare parts inventory management. “It’s a highly promising approach, offering enhanced traceability, security, and transparency,” Cole said. “It can effectively combat issues like counterfeit and stolen parts by creating an immutable record of each part’s history and transactions. This traceability ensures authenticity and secure transactions across the supply chain.”

“Blockchain technology offers significant promise in enhancing transparency, security, and efficiency,” agreed Jamil. “Its decentralized and tamper-evident ledger means it can help in tracking parts provenance, preventing the entry of counterfeit parts into the supply chain, and ensuring compliance with regulations. At APOC, we are actively exploring blockchain’s potential to further secure our supply chain and logistics operations.”

But not everyone is convinced that this level of high security is warranted. One reason: “For a wide application of blockchain to succeed in the aviation industry, many players would need to align, including the authorities,” Horatzek said. “Nevertheless, Satair keeps observing the evolution of this technology.”

He’s not the only skeptic. “The benefits are clear in that blockchain can increase parts traceability, tracking of information for sales and pooling, increase the efficiency of lease returns, enhance the ease of data search (versus paper), and automate data entry, among other advantages,” observed Sosa. “The major drawback, or effect on feasibility at this point, is that there is little to no development of data interchange for component sales and pooling due to the reluctance by some vendors to provide needed supply chain data.”

“Blockchain is a little bit of a technology looking for a problem,” Tautges quipped. However, he concedes the point that “the custodianship and the validation of parts are a big deal. The adage goes that the part is only as valuable as the paperwork that goes with it. So I think there’s a lot of value in being able to match those certifications to parts and make sure you’re getting accurate information. Blockchain is a mechanism to manage the control of that and security of that.”

What the Future Could Hold

How do you improve upon an IT-based spare parts management solution that already works very well? Make it more “predictive”, replied Tautges. That means using “internally driven algorithms and AI driven algorithms” to calculate and set pricing — in other words, start using AI and algorithms to predict what the value of a part is so that a standardized price can be determined.

Cole endorses this view. “The focus right now is on further integrating AI and IoT (Internet of Things) technologies to enhance predictive capabilities and automation in inventory management,” he said. “Leveraging Big Data for better analytics, increasing the use of blockchain for security and transparency, and improving user interfaces for inventory management systems are key areas of development. These advancements aim to further reduce manual processes, increase efficiency, and ensure the availability of high-quality, authentic spare parts.”

Jamil adds another “critical aspect” that he believes can improve these systems, but only if everybody learns to work together. “To go forward with this technology, there is a need for industry-wide collaboration,” Jamil explained. “By sharing knowledge, technology, and Best Practices, companies can tackle common challenges more effectively and drive innovations that benefit the entire sector.”

Horatzek is on board with improved industry collaboration. He also believes that “efficiencies in the MRO business need to be boosted. Taking the example of how Airbus works with its suppliers, i.e. fully digital and automated transactional business from demand forecast to payment: This needs to be extended to the workflows between industry partners in the MRO business. Of course, this will require a modern industry standard for M2M material management.”

All told, there are many advances that can be applied to make spare parts management solutions do more than ever before, and likely will be implemented in the years to come. Who knows: Maybe someday these solutions will be able to handle all aspects of parts prediction, stocking, tracking, distribution, and billing on a proactive basis — putting an end to spare parts shortages and AOS situations for MROs and airlines alike!

Japan Airlines Embraces SAFETY FIRST (AND ALWAYS)

Japan Airlines Embraces SAFETY FIRST (AND ALWAYS)

Maintenance personnel, flight crew, and cabin crew are generally seen as carrying the banner of aviation safety. But what if that attitude could spread throughout an entire airline? Japan Airlines is a prime example, as Ian Harbison discovered when he visited the airline’s Safety Promotion Center in Tokyo.

Just under seven weeks after that visit, on January 2, 2024, a Japan Airlines Airbus A350-900 departed Sapporo as JAL 516, a domestic flight to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, carrying three pilots, nine cabin crew and 367 passengers (the aircraft has a capacity of 369 seats but there were also eight infants, New Year being a peak travel time in Japan). As it left the gate, the ground crew, as always, would have lined up and waved to the passengers to wish them a safe and comfortable flight.

The aircraft landed in darkness at Haneda, with the flight crew following all air traffic control instructions. Unfortunately, a De Havilland Canada Dash 8-300 of the Japan Coast Guard had ignored an instruction to hold short of the runway and lined up preparing for take off. It was carrying relief supplies to a base in Niigata, close to the Noto peninsula, that had been struck by a major earthquake the day before. The A350 hit the Dash 8 from behind, causing a huge fireball and killing five of the six Coast Guard crew members, before veering off the runway in flames.

The evacuation of the A350 is being praised for the efficient way it was carried out — one person suffered a fractured rib, one had a shin bone contusion, one with a sprain and one with bruising, while 12 people visited a medical facility later in the day after feeling unwell — with the captain leaving the aircraft just 18 minutes after the initial impact. It was made more complicated by the nose gear having been torn off and a major fire in the starboard engine. This meant only three slides (two forward and aft left) could be safely deployed, and not all at the right slope angle. In addition, the aircraft’s announcement system failed so cabin crew members had to shout instructions using a megaphone or their voices. For once, the passengers also helped themselves in the evacuation by obeying the crew and leaving their belongings behind. This may be a cultural influence but the JAL safety video does show the consequences of delaying others by trying to collect and carry baggage from the overhead bins.

The professionalism of the ground crew, flight crew, and cabin crew can largely be attributed to excellent training but there is more — a commitment to safety that is an integral part of the airline’s culture. For example, each crew member would have been carrying a card with the airline’s Safety Charter (see box story).

This attitude can be traced back to an accident that happened to another widebody aircraft on a domestic flight with a full passenger load around a public holiday (the Obon Festival, when the spirits of the ancestors return to the family home). On August 12, 1985, the airline suffered what is still the most catastrophic single aircraft accident in aviation history, when a Boeing 747SR-100 crashed, killing 15 crew and 505 passengers, leaving just four survivors.

On June 2, 1978, the accident aircraft suffered a tail strike at Osaka-Itami Airport. It was ferried to the JAL maintenance base at Haneda where it was surveyed by a team from Boeing. It was decided that the lower half of the rear pressure bulkhead needed to be replaced but the overlap between the two halves was less than specified. The solution was to fit a splice plate between them, which would be held in place by a double line of rivets.

For some reason, Boeing supplied a handwritten instruction rather than a proper engineering blueprint and the splice plate ended up being split in two — the bulkhead would be held together by a single row of rivets. In addition, the manufacturer advised JAL that only visual inspections would be required, rather than eddy current testing. Fatigue cracking around the rivet heads where they could not be seen therefore went undetected.

At the JAL Safety Promotion Center the exhibition focuses on the recovered aircraft debris from JAL123, including the aft pressure bulkhead, aft fuselage, part of the tail structure, flight and cockpit voice recorders, newspaper reports and photographs of the crash site. Most of the structure was recovered from the crash site but some parts of the tail were found floating in the sea. Ian Harbison image.
At the JAL Safety Promotion Center the exhibition focuses on the recovered aircraft debris from JAL123, including the aft pressure bulkhead, aft fuselage, part of the tail structure, flight and cockpit voice recorders, newspaper reports and photographs of the crash site. Most of the structure was recovered from the crash site but some parts of the tail were found floating in the sea. Ian Harbison image.

On the day of the accident, the aircraft took off from Haneda as JAL 123, heading for Osaka. The Boeing 747SR-46 was designed for the Japanese domestic market with a very high density layout, hence the high death toll. It took off at 18:12 and, as it reached cruise altitude at 18:24:35, the rear pressure bulkhead failed, blowing a 2m2 hole in the top half — the original structure. The outrush of air blew off the tailcone and APU but inherent design faults in the aircraft then came into play. There was an access panel that allowed engineers to inspect the inside of the vertical stabiliser but there was no cover to restrict the blast, which removed the rudders and about 55% of the tail structure. All four hydraulic systems were located close to each other in the tail area and suffered severe damage, losing all pressure.

This left the aircraft in an uncontrollable state, as it developed a Dutch roll and phugoid oscillations. The only way to change direction was by differential throttle, which the crew attempted to do to return to Haneda. Unfortunately, this was not possible and, at 18:56, it impacted the south ridge of Mount Osutaka near Ueno village, about 70 miles northwest of Tokyo. Search and rescue teams were unable to reach the remote area until the following morning.

Safety Promotion Center

Masato Mukoyama, senior specialist in the Safety and Security Promotion Department of the Corporate Safety and Security Division, who has worked at JAL since 1987, said the airline was traumatized but management adopted a protective attitude, determined to preserve the reputation of the airline. Added to this, Japanese law made the investigation a criminal matter, which Boeing found unacceptable.

As a result, in subsequent years there was insufficient emphasis and communication on safety from top management, with punctuality seeming to be the main focus. However, in March 2005, the airline received a Business Improvement Order from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism warning that it had to improve the quality of its operations. This wakeup call followed four incidents in the previous four months caused by human error, the situation being complicated by moves to consolidate the smaller Japan Air System into the JAL Group.

The immediate response was to form a Safety Measure Council that would meet on a regular basis. It was headed by the president and included vice-presidents, safety supervisors, safety directors, and a representative from each of the airline’s divisions. Five months later, a Safety Advisory Group was established, chaired by Kunio Yanagida, a well known writer and critic specializing in aviation, medicine, and disaster management.

The group came up with four recommendations:

• establish a central body responsible for safety

• establish a Safety Promotion Center

• consider the viewpoint of passengers and their families in the wake of accidents

• improve communications.

In April 2006, a Corporate Safety and Security Division was formed, reporting directly to JAL’s president. It consists of an Operation Group, Safety Planning Group and a Casualty Care Office. One of the duties of the latter is to provide assistance at the annual memorial ceremony in Ueno village for the families of the JAL 123 passengers and crew – 272 people turned up for the 2023 event.

The structure has changed over the years, with a chief safety officer now between the President and the Corporate Safety and Security Division. A group safety enhancement council is composed of the president (chair), the chief safety officer, executive officers appointed by the president, and presidents of group airlines while the Group Operational Safety Promotion Committee, a sub-committee of the Group Safety Enhancement Council, is composed of the vice president of JAL’s Corporate Safety and Security (Chair), vice presidents of JAL safety management departments appointed by the chair, and the chief safety officer or executive officer in charge of safety of each group airline.

Also in Aprill 2006, the Safety Promotion Center was opened at Haneda. Every JAL Group employee passes through the Center when they join the company and it has been used by other airlines, the nuclear industry and train, bus and trucking companies as a way to reinforce safety as part of their own businesses. It is also open to the public.

The introduction covers the early years of the company and its safety record. From its foundation in 1951 to 1977, as it moved from propeller-driven aircraft to jets, it had six fatal accidents that killed 315 passengers, crew and people on the ground. All were caused by pilot error or not following procedures rather than technical issues.

At the end of the exhibition is a library that features the history of aviation safety, describing safety improvements based on lessons learned from accidents and a panel describing actual cases of severe accident mitigation. Also shown are message cards containing personal ‘My Safety Pledges’ of JAL Group staff.

However, the heart of the exhibition is aircraft debris from JAL123, including the aft pressure bulkhead, aft fuselage, part of the tail structure, flight and cockpit voice recorders, newspaper reports and photographs of the crash site. Most of the structure was recovered from the crash site but some parts of the tail were found floating in the sea. In addition, there are mangled passenger seats — it is estimated the aircraft hit the ground at 300mph with a force of 100g. Wall-mounted displays show the transcript of communications between the pilots and ATC and announcements to the passengers by cabin crew. One started writing an announcement in a notebook that matched the circumstances, as the usual script would not apply. The notebook survived the crash and is on display, they did not.

Part of the exhibition shows the aft pressure bulkhead of JAL 123, which was held together by only a single row of rivets due to numerous contributing factors. Ian Harbison image.
Part of the exhibition shows the aft pressure bulkhead of JAL 123, which was held together by only a single row of rivets due to numerous contributing factors. Ian Harbison image.

Passengers also wrote messages to their loved ones in the 32 minutes from the bulkhead failure to impact with the mountain. Most poignant are personal effects such as car keys and a calculator and, most powerful of all, five watches stopped at the time of impact. None of these items could be attributed to a particular passenger and, says Mukoyama, there are still 2,500 similar items in storage.

Yanagida, perhaps as he was outside aviation, came up with a unique concept that runs through the airline’s current thinking about safety — the 2.5th-person perspective. The first- person perspective is that of the passenger, the second-person perspective is that of the passenger’s family and friends, while the third-person perspective is that of the airline employee carrying out their job. Unfortunately, as in the case of JAL 123, that can lead to an attitude that appears to be cold an uncaring. Yanagida’s insight was to suggest a perspective that avoids being swayed by emotions that hinder impartial professional judgement while showing empathy and understanding.

The concept can be seen in the press release relating to the A350 accident: “Sincere apologies are offered for the considerable concerns and inconveniences caused to our customers, their families, and everyone involved. Full cooperation will be provided in the investigation of the incident.”

He also felt it was important, as a 2.5th person, to reach out to the families. In particular, to someone who lost a sister in the crash and made an annual pilgrimage to the site on Mount Osutaka, retrieving small pieces of wreckage and cleaning them. Yanagida told this story to a JAL executive who pleaded for the gentleman’s permission to donate the collection to the Safety Center, where they are shown in a large case, again demonstrating the violence of the impact.

The airline’s response to the JAL 516 accident, from the perfect evacuation to engaging with the public, demonstrates that safety really is at the heart of everything it does. The Safety Promotion Center is an important tool in promoting that message but it can also be seen as a lasting memorial to the people on JAL 123 — they did not die in vain.

Q&A Caroline Vandedrinck

Caroline Vandedrinck

SR Technics is a large MRO service provider in the civil aviation industry headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland. The company narrowed its focus to engine MRO and is an authorized CFM and Pratt & Whitney MRO engine shop. It has performed more than 5,500 shops visits for more than 500 customers worldwide. Aviation Maintenance editor-in-chief, Joy Finnegan, had the opportunity to speak with Caroline Vandedrinck, senior vice president business development at SR Technics, recently. Vandedrinck has more than 25 years of experience in aviation, and has held various senior commercial positions for international aviation companies. She joined SR Technics in 2016 as vice president Americas and has played a key role in driving SR Technics’ sales organization forward. She holds a degree in Aerospace Engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and an MBA in International Business from European University. She’s been in her current role with the company since July, 2020.

AVM: 2020 — what a time to take on that role! Give our readers an overview of what’s been happening the last couple of years and where you’re headed.

Caroline Vandedrinck: Exactly. But it’s been good. We did a successful transformation of the company. We have really dedicated and very talented people and our main focus is now on engines. We focus on the CFM engine and the PW 4000. Those are our mainstay. We also, in the last couple of year’s got the license for the LEAP-1A and B and we are part of the Pratt Whitney GTF PW1100G-JM network. Those are two major milestones that really propel us into the future.

AVM: That’s a lot going on. It’s already a challenge to find people that are qualified that can do this very specific technical work. How are you keeping up with the need for technicians with the current workforce challenges?

Vandedrinck: We’re in the business for the long term. This means we have to hire a lot of people for the new engines. It’s a different team and we have to hire about 400 people in the next couple years, which is a lot of people. And then, of course, we also have to hire just from normal attrition in the main line. We have an apprenticeship program which provides trained employees to our company, but that’s not enough. We have to go wider.

AVM: Go wider — how?

Vandedrinck: We traditionally work with educational facilities. In the past, we looked at Switzerland for our labor force and our apprenticeship program. In recent years, we also went to Germany and France and Italy, so people can easily commute. Now we have to go much further into the EU (European Union). We go to all 27 countries in the EU to look for people with those skills or skills that can be easily trained into our engines.

AVM: Are you offering incentives for people to join the company?

Vandedrinck: Well, Switzerland itself is an incentive to come. It’s safe, it’s clean. Quality of life is really good.

AVM: It’s also expensive.

Vandedrinck: It is, but the salaries are commensurate with that. The cost of living is taken into account. And when there are employees who come from other countries, we have a program that indoctrinates and onboards them. This enables them to get established with a bank account, an identity card and get their own apartment.

AVM: Tell our readers about the Women on Wings (WOW) initiative at your company.

Vandedrinck: SR Technics introduced the Women on Wings (WOW) initiative recently. It’s a dynamic endeavor aimed at promoting the growth of a diverse and inclusive workforce within the company. By offering a network platform, mentoring programs and increased visibility within the company, SR Technics is aiming to support its current and future female workforce in reaching new heights of success. I am the chairwoman of WOW. We’re going to talk about mission and vision and what is it we want to achieve and how can we collaborate together. What are the needs of women in our company? What can we do to retain them and attract many others? We are committed to fostering an environment where every individual’s talents and contributions are valued and encouraged. Collaboration is key to our success and it’s inspiring to see so many talented women leading the way. The company firmly believes that by nurturing an environment where every voice is not only heard but also valued, limitless possibilities for growth and innovation can be unlocked.

AVM: Do you think this initiative will help attract and retain women?

Vandedrinck: Yes — I worked in other companies where they had a women’s network and just having a voice meant a lot. And then, of course, action needs to follow. It’s learning from other companies who have it, guest speakers, and it’s mentorship. When I was early on in my career I definitely valued the mentorship that I had. Anytime I had to make a career decision, I went to my personal board of directors — my dad was one of them — there were three other women that were part of it from totally different aspects of aviation. I would run things by them and say, hey, what do you think?

AVM: Your company says they use a top down, bottom up management style. Please explain that.

Vandedrinck: During Covid, we had a two-year strategy to survive. It was all about survival. Now, post-Covid, we, as a leadership team, spent last year working on what we call “takeoff,” which is the company strategy from 2024 through 2028. We also had to create a new vision, which is about unwavering dedication to innovation, excellence, and environmental responsibility, which will propel us on our journey to becoming the leading, most customer-centric and sustainable engine-focused MRO. As part of the transformation, our company is now 85-90% focused on engines, whereas before we had five different business units. This new strategy has many pillars, some of which focus on growth, people, customers, environment, environmental sustainability in innovation, and digitalization, which then leads to financial success.

AVM: Talk about digitalization. What does that mean to SR Technics? Where are you headed in this regard?

Vandedrinck: This is just the beginning. We’re introducing a new ERP system, which will improve many of our processes. The new system is coming online later this year. But we still have ways to go. Our efforts will focus on process improvements where we have a lot of touch with labor and we have a lot of material planning. There is a lot of innovation that you can do. There’s some artificial intelligence that can be used. We are already using robots on repeatable processes that can be automated.

Caroline Vandedrinck

AVM: Give us some examples of repeatable processes that can be automated.

Vandedrinck: Invoicing. Those types of easy processes that are repeatable. Automating them avoids possible human error.

AVM: What are your thoughts about how AI is going to impact our business?

Vandedrinck: It’s going to be a journey to really understand what value it can bring, but also what pitfalls there are. AI is what you put in to have a repeatable process or to have an answer to a question. But it has to be put in by somebody. And that needs to be verified, especially in aviation. You don’t want to go to ChatGPT and say, “How do I maintain an engine? Using the answer from ChatGPT would not make the engine certifiable.” We as an industry need to be really careful how we use AI and when we use AI. There will be applications, but we are governed by regulatory entities. We have to be careful that we understand it and its pitfalls. We don’t have concrete examples yet but we’re evaluating it. It’s exciting, but we have to go with our eyes wide open.

AVM: Jean-Marc Lenz retired in 2023. Matthias Düllmann was appointed CEO but left the company after only a few months. Owen McClave, formerly COO, succeeded him. Quite a few changes to your leadership. Talk about that.

Vandedrinck: In any company people change, people get changed. It’s a normal way of running a company. Owen McClave has been in this industry for many decades. He worked at Pratt & Whitney. He was our COO. He was running operations. He comes with great experience.

AVM: Let’s talk about some of the locations and can you highlight some of your locations and what they do.

Vandedrinck: Zurich is our headquarters and is also where we have the engine operations. But very important to the engine operations is our facility in Cork, Ireland, where we do the repair of airfoils. That really is our internal supplier to the engine line. Another facility we have is in Malta and this is where we do airframe maintenance. We also have our facility in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which is a joint venture haswith SIA Engineering Company (SIAEC). That joint venture has been in place for a couple of years and it’s where we do component repair work. We also have a facility in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, where they focus on the repair and overhaul of wheels and brakes. We also have business development offices in various other places, like we have one here in, in Florida, and we have one in Shanghai.

aircraft engine

AVM: Your promotional materials say your maintenance work is focused on quality, speed, and value.

Vandedrinck: Those are the hallmarks of a Swiss company!

AVM: Talk about how you’re achieving that.

Vandedrinck: So we’re very proud of that because the “Swissness” is about quality, it’s about being on time. And we achieve that with the use of employees. Motivated, talented employees, continuous improvement, training, and leadership.

AVM: This business is about hands on aircraft but also about trust and relationships. Talk about how those two things integrate at SR Technics.

Vandedrinck: Well, you can’t grow unless you have customers and you can’t retain or obtain new customers without relationships and without motivated employees. It all works together. I mean, it’s still a business of people. There may be company names attached to those people, but the relationships are very important.

AVM: And let’s talk about your commitment to sustainability. It’s on everybody’s minds these days. What is SR Technics doing in this area?

Vandedrinck: Environmental protection is a strategic pillar in our organization and our strategy. We are very committed to reduce our CO2 emission by 15% until 2025 from baseline 2019 and being carbon neutral by 2050. We have an action plan to work towards that by addressing everything from energy in the shop for example heating. We’re also looking at the test cell. How can we reduce test cell time and therefore exhaust? We’re also looking at sustainable aviation fuel and together with our partners, Kuehne+Nagel and Atlas Air, Inc., we received the prestigious Laureate Award for the Sustainable Engine Alliance initiative at the 66th Aviation Week Network’s Laureate Awards ceremony. We are looking at not just the engine overhaul piece, but the whole transportation of an engine from wherever it is to an engine maintenance facility. We looked at the whole value chain that makes it important and makes it recognizable and now we have other airlines knocking on the door saying, how can we be part of what you are achieving here?