Derrick Siebert, vice president of commercials engine services at Lufthansa Technik, and Dimitrios Ladas, director of engine maintenance at Air Canada, share insights into how they have enhanced their longstanding partnership, which has proven to be instrumental in advancing maintenance practices.
Could you provide some background on the Lufthansa Technik and Air Canada engines overhaul relationship?
Ladas: The relationship grew out of the need to have the CFM fleet maintained after the 2012 closure of Aveo’s engine shop in Montreal. The relationship started with routine maintenance and then a year later with Mobile Engine Services (MES) work, helping us to be more competitive from a managing engine cost perspective.
Siebert: Indeed, together we developed and shaped our collaboration. It began with a modest team of five mechanics in a shop-in-shop set-up within Air Canada’s hangar. I am grateful that over the years, our services have evolved to become a significant element of Air Canada’s engine maintenance philosophy. Adapting to more complex work scopes, we’ve witnessed a notable rise in the number of events, and in 2019 we moved to a larger facility to facilitate further growth. Our collaborative efforts have been driven by a shared commitment to pushing the boundaries of engine maintenance, and Air Canada’s recognition of our solution-oriented approach and technical expertise has been key to our collective success.
With access to Lufthansa Technik’s expertise, can you provide specific examples of how this knowledge transfer has already positively impacted Air Canada’s maintenance and engineering practices, leading to improvements or innovations in operations?
Ladas: Lufthansa Technik is a supplier who does not say no to new ideas. They will study the new requests and then start to look at different possibilities to help their customer. Such was the case when we started the MES shop in Montreal. This has allowed Air Canada to have a flexible maintenance programme with shorter turn times and available spare allotment. We started with low pressure turbine swaps between engines, performing top and bottom case repairs and airfoil replacements including high pressure turbine blades. Today, we perform more extensive work scope like full core replacements.
Siebert: I think that our collaboration has marked a positive evolution in maintenance practices. Previously, it was common practice in the industry to operate engines until they had to be extensively overhauled. This resulted in material wear and expensive workshop visits. All of this was also not very sustainable. Keeping engines on-wing is the best option, repairing them close to where the aircraft is operated is the next.
In response, we introduced our MES, a concept of ‘surgical strike’ work scopes. This approach emphasises precision and targeted interventions, moving away from extensive overhauls to smaller, more focused tasks. It ensures quicker turnaround times, minimising downtime and reducing unnecessary expenses, helping our customers to reduce their engine maintenance costs by more than 20 per cent. Thus, by adopting a more customer-oriented mindset, we have been tailoring our interventions to the specific needs of Air Canada, fostering a collaborative and adaptive maintenance strategy.
How do these services by Lufthansa Technik enhance Air Canada’s operational reliability and customer service?
Ladas: These services allow Air Canada to have a lighter maintenance programme to save time and money by reducing transportation delays and costs. The MES shop proximity allows our engineers to view the engines and hardware up close and get hands-on experience. In addition, Lufthansa Technik uses the Engine Maintenance Services (EMS) as a support to back-stop and technical requirements including training, tooling, and engineering.
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How will this benefit the airline, and how does it fit into the broader strategy of both companies?
Ladas: This is a very different type of maintenance philosophy for any airline as it shifts cost to future, all the while making sure the engine has multiple smaller visits allowing for a more reliable product.
Siebert: This also aligns with Lufthansa Technik’s broader strategy of providing comprehensive, high-quality services to our partners worldwide, contributing to their operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness. This said, we are planning to extend Lufthansa Technik’s MES particularly in North America.
Collaboration often involves challenges and lessons learned. Can you discuss any challenges that have arisen during the partnership so far and how you’ve worked together to overcome them, ultimately strengthening the cooperation?
Siebert: Over the years, we have of course faced challenges; just imagine two strong engineering companies discussing MRO specifications. Our close communication and collaborative problem-solving approach have been key in overcoming these challenges, fostering a stronger relationship with Air Canada. I would even say that this partnership has helped us to communicate in a much more customer-oriented way and to make our work more transparent to Air Canada and beyond. What do you think, Dimitrios?
Ladas: Like any partnership, this is a long-term relationship which requires give and take. When we experienced an Airworthiness Directive (AD) for the Front Outer Seal Life-Limited Parts (FOS LLP), Lufthansa Technik came to the table to support Air Canada with multiple bays and a quick turn time to make sure we did not ground any planes. In return, we may sell our used Life-Limited Parts to Lufthansa Technik to support another customer to make sure the shop reduces bottlenecks.
Looking ahead, what are the key goals and aspirations for the future of this partnership between Lufthansa Technik and Air Canada, and how do you envision it evolving to meet the changing needs of the aviation industry?
Ladas: Air Canada has a very strong need to have the Lufthansa Technik MES shop capable of adding future services and engine types to support Air Canada and other customers. Newer engine platforms are having some teething pains and Lufthansa Technik would be the right MRO to help our industry. I am looking forward to seeing added capabilities in the years to come.
Siebert: Lufthansa Technik aims to evolve alongside Air Canada, anticipating industry trends and ensuring our partnership remains at the forefront of innovation and efficiency. We want to explore new possibilities in maintenance, especially with the increasing cost pressures in MRO and the technical challenges our customers face. Working on Pratt & Whitney and GE engine types, our focus is on collaborating to deliver optimal solutions for our customers.
Additionally, we envision being a strategic partner for Air Canada and others in matters of sustainability, for example, in the context of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and its implications for MRO services. There is much more to come, and we are really excited about it.
This feature was first published in MRO Management – November/December 2023. To read the magazine in full, click here.