In this Q&A for MRO Management, Boeing India’s president Salil Gupte tells us about the approach the company is taking to enhance MRO capabilities in India.
What are the current strategies that Boeing India is implementing to make MRO activities more efficient?
India is set to become one of the biggest players in the global civil aviation market, expecting more than 2,700 aircraft to arrive in the country over the next 20 years. To keep up with this growth, India needs top-notch MRO services, as a large chunk of MRO spending currently goes abroad.
India benefits from a skilled workforce, including experienced ex-servicemen, and strong industry capabilities, allowing it to offer cost-effective solutions and meet high customer standards. In 2021, Boeing launched Boeing India Repair Development and Sustainment (BIRDS), an in-country network and alliance of suppliers that envisions a competitive MRO ecosystem for engineering, maintenance, skilling, repair and sustainment services of defence and commercial aircraft.
This network aims to drive high industry benchmarks in India for maintenance and repair, platform availability, customer satisfaction and quicker turnaround time. An important aspect of the hub is training programmes to increase skilled manpower by developing sub-tier suppliers and medium, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs) to build high quality MRO capabilities in India.
As part of the BIRDS hub, Boeing and Air Works collaborated to successfully complete Phase 32 maintenance checks on six P-8I aircraft operated by the Indian Navy, including three that underwent heavy maintenance checks simultaneously, showcasing a level of maturity and scale comparable to established global MRO hubs.
Another element of the BIRDS initiative was Horizon Aerospace being awarded a Boeing contract for the MRO of key Boeing defence platforms in India, the P-8I operated by the Indian Navy (IN) and the VIP 737 transport fleet operated by the Indian Air Force (IAF). This will enable value-creation for Indian defence customers locally through faster turnaround, exceptional operational capability and readiness on Boeing aircraft.
Furthermore, AI Engineering Services Limited (AIESL) entered into a strategic agreement with Boeing for the MRO of Boeing 777 aircraft operated by the Indian Air Force and is also exploring collaboration in repair and overhaul of landing gear and other commercial common 737NG equipment fitted on the Indian Navy’s P-8I fleet.
The BIRDS hub also enabled Boeing to build an MRO facility in Nagpur which was handed over to Air India in late 2014.
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What are Boeing India’s future plans for MRO in APAC and worldwide?
Boeing India recognises the immense potential for MRO services in the aviation industry, both in APAC and worldwide. While there is a primary gap in component and engine maintenance in India’s MRO industry, Boeing is committed to addressing this need promptly and supporting its customers in India. To expedite MRO growth, Boeing is taking proactive measures.
For base maintenance, Boeing plans to leverage defence MRO and complex civil aircraft modification work to develop infrastructure and capabilities applicable to civil MRO as well. This approach will help enhance the overall MRO capabilities in India. Aircraft OEMs such as Boeing do not actually control much of the repair IP to perform MRO on components and engines – rather that lies with the Tier 1 OEMs themselves. To expedite MRO growth in these areas, Boeing is taking certain proactive measures.
In terms of component and engine maintenance, Boeing seeks for its suppliers to collaborate with local Indian MROs when component OEMs reach capacity at their foreign facilities.
Furthermore, Boeing is introducing foreign MROs that already hold exclusive intellectual property rights to component repair to Indian MROs, in the interests of furthering partnerships to execute such MRO in India. This collaboration will facilitate the transfer of knowledge and enhance the overall MRO capabilities in India.
Boeing’s engine partners have made progress towards developing engine MRO capabilities as well, with facilities coming in the next couple years.
How does Boeing India plan to stay ahead of the competition in the MRO industry?
Boeing is partnering with customers and local industry to set up MRO facilities in the region to support India’s aspiration to become an MRO hub for the region and provide engineering and parts services to directly support regional commercial airline customers. Today, Boeing has the highest number of MRO partners in the country, working on defence and civil aviation.
Boeing is actively working to ensure maintenance training and certification for Indian MROs, partnering with regulators to enhance their capabilities and expertise, and the company is proud to be developing first-in-India MRO capabilities, collaborating with Air Works on Boeing 737 derivative aircraft and GMR on airplane cargo conversions. These initiatives will bolster the MRO sector and contribute to India’s aviation industry.
To support MRO operations in India, Boeing will be investing $24 million in India Logistics to ensure timely availability of critical components for efficient MRO services.
Boeing is also fostering collaboration between component and engine OEMs and Indian MROs with notable partnerships including Spirit, a Boeing supplier, announcing a collaboration with GMR and Safran/CFM, a Boeing engine supplier, committing to establish a full MRO facility in Hyderabad by 2025. These collaborations will strengthen the MRO ecosystem in India.
Investing in world-class MRO hangar infrastructure is another important aspect for Boeing. For example, the C-17 MRO facility at Hindon Air Base is being built to meet international standards. This infrastructure will not only support defence MRO but also has the potential for civil MRO operations in the future.
In a further effort to enhance MRO capabilities, Boeing is inviting leading foreign MROs to India to evaluate Indian MROs for component repair and to explore potential partnerships. This exchange of expertise and knowledge will contribute to the growth and development of the MRO sector in India.
These initiatives collectively reflect Boeing’s commitment to supporting the MRO industry in India and fostering partnerships to strengthen the overall aviation ecosystem in the country, which enable Boeing airplanes to be more easily maintained in India, ahead of any other OEM in the country.
This feature was first published in MRO Management – August/September 2023. To read the magazine in full, click here.