By Douglas Nelms
The 51st International Paris Air Show, held at Le Bourget Airport held this summer broke records including 2,303 exhibitors, up 4 percent, 351,000 visitors, an increase of 11.4 percent of which 151,000 were trade visitors, an increase of 8.6 percent over 2013. There were 130 aircraft on display and the show was inaugurated by French President, François Hollande on opening day. Aviation Maintenance was there lending an eye to aircraft maintenance and MRO developments. Here is a bit of what we learned.
Two of the world’s major MRO providers announced plans at the Paris Air Show last June to branch out on a global scale, each exploring new territory.
AAR Corp., based in Wood Dale, Ill., said that under a Memorandum of Understanding signed with South African Airways Technical (SAAT), it will provide technical assistance to help SAAT streamline its maintenance operations. While the AAR program is still in the MOU stage, current planning is that AAR will initially serve as consultants, according to Kathleen Cantillon, VP, Strategic Communications. “We will just be providing technical assistance, sending people over to South Africa to work with SAAT, providing knowledge aimed at reducing costs, increasing efficiencies, training workers and helping them establish the right type of curriculum for their technical school to train mechanics.” The agreement will also cover the integration of IT solutions, including AAR’s IMRO Software Suite.
According to Musa Zwane, CEO of SAAT, the AAR agreement could potentially support a new MRO facility planned for West and Central Africa. The planning for a new facility is to meet the growing regional air traffic in sub-Sahara Africa and increasing international traffic.
SAAT currently provides maintenance for South African Airways as well as third-party maintenance at its Tambo International Airport facility in Johannesburg. It has the capacity to handle up to five Boeing 747s in its 85,000 square meters hangar, performing up to C- and D- checks. Cantillon noted that the agreement with SAAT was supported by the U.S. Department of Commerce’ Doing Business In Africa (DBIA) initiative. The agreement is a planned movement into the African market, with the company also looking for a joint venture to establish a facility that can serve other areas within Africa, “which is a really developing market place.”
Last April AAR sold off all of its cargo business and is using that money to finance its international expansion, she said. The African market “is not an easy place to get your foot in the water,” and going into that market would be hard without a local partner, Cantillon said. “So SAAT is an ideal partnership since they know the culture and the people. We have established a lot of programs in the United States, so we know how to do that. We can help train their aviation mechanics, which are always in short supply.”
The company is currently evaluating future opportunities on a case-by-case basis, and believes strongly “in the importance of having a local partner for their expertise on vendors, workers, etc. We are focused on expanding in developing countries since that is where the growth is,” Cantillon said.
AAR Corp. also recently signed a $39 million contract with the UAE’s AMMROC (Advanced Military Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Center) to help them build a state-of-the-art military MRO facility, Cantillon said. AMMROC is a joint venture between Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala Development Company, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin.
AAR will help AMMROC build the facilities from scratch, designing and building support areas such as hangars, work areas and machine and special processing shops for a military maintenance center. The facility will be in Al Ain, one of the seven Emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates.