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Supporting a robust supply chain

Washington Aviation Group's Jason Dickstein
photo_camera Washington Aviation Group's Jason Dickstein

For MRO Management, Washington Aviation Group’s Jason Dickstein sheds light on some initiatives being used to maintain airworthiness amidst complex supply chain challenges.

The ‘supply chain’ remains a consistent buzzword in the industry. Air carriers and MROs continue to experience supply chain problems. Solutions providers like PMA manufacturers and MROs with DER-approved repairs have become especially important to the industry as they help to keep aircraft flying despite the supply chain issues.

Even before Covid-19, independent PMA manufacturers tended to keep products on the shelf so they could make sales quickly in support of the air carriers. I know of several PMA manufacturers who kept their staff busy stocking shelves during the pandemic. This immediate availability has been a tremendous benefit to air carriers seeking parts to keep their aircraft flying in the current ‘supply chain environment’.

Some of the industry’s solutions have been more creative than others. Take, for example, Fortress Transportation, a leasing company that owns CFM56 engines. Like many other companies, it is looking for ways to set itself apart from the competition. However, listening to the quarterly conference calls reveals the brilliance that makes it truly stand out in the crowd.

Fortress Transportation has emerged as a leader among the engine leasing community by entering into deals which are intended to curtail supply chain problems. Two key initiatives are deals to recover used serviceable material (USM), and an initiative to partner on the development of PMA parts for its engines in partnership with Chromalloy.

Numerous industry presentations have highlighted that the most significant cost in an engine overhaul is the material cost. The USM and PMA deals are clever ways to improve the pool of replacement parts.

USM recovery is usually focused on rotable parts. The recovered USM is overhauled and then reinstalled in products to maintain their airworthiness.

The PMA deal provides a stream of new parts that are FAA-approved as ready replacements. Not only does this provide a second source in the event of supply chain issues, but it also provides price competition among FAA-approved parts that will help moderate the pricing of engine MRO.

Through its intimate involvement in the PMA process, Fortress Transportation can direct the development of the PMAs that it needs the most in order to manage its engine MRO costs. It is working with Chromalloy, which is well-known for its engineering excellence, and its significant experience in developing both novel DER repairs and complex PMA parts.

This article continues after the below picture…

The most significant cost in an engine overhaul is the material cost. Credit: Adobe Stock

Fortress Transportation has expressed an intent to use its resources to improve turn-around time and cost on its repair processes. One way it plans to do this is by offering a ‘module factory’ that will offer module swaps. By swapping engine modules (like the fan module, for example) air carriers can better optimise the time-on-wing of their engines.

Fortress Transportation expects to provide a significant number of modules to the industry that will allow air carriers and others to exchange low-time modules in order to avoid significant engine work, thus extending the green time on the engines.

Air carrier executives have revealed to us that even OEM MROs are endorsing novel solutions to the supply chain issue, with some asking the air carriers to accelerate approval of certain PMAs when the OEM facility wants to use PMAs due to its own supply chain roadblocks. This shows that these OEM MROs are willing to abandon their own anti-PMA animus when it is crucial in supporting their air carrier customers.

While we seek to optimise the supply chain, it is important to remember the importance of airworthiness assurance. The world’s aviation authorities are constantly vigilant in their effort to support airworthiness, but we need to be active participants in this process. One way that we can all help support a robust supply chain is by encouraging our distribution partners to become accredited under AC 00-56.

The AC 00-56 programme sets a quality assurance standard and allows distributors to adopt a voluntary quality assurance system that meets the standard. Typically, the distributor must meet a private sector standard as well as the government standard to become accredited.

One of the more popular private sector distribution standards is ASA-100, which is managed by the Aviation Suppliers Association. Distributors rely on third party auditors to periodically check their system against the standards. The ASA-100 quality standard was originally developed in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and it has subsequently been endorsed by both the European Union and China.

Since mid-summer, we have been learning more and more about the AOG Technics issues. This is a UK-based company that has been accused of selling engine parts with fraudulent documentation.

AOG Technics was accredited under the TAC-2000 programme. Accreditation audits typically examine records in order to ensure compliance with industry documentation expectations. We hope that the FAA or the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will investigate whether the TAC-2000 accreditation records can shed some light on the fraudulent documentation allegations.

Both EASA and the FAA have issued formal warnings about engine parts from AOG Technics. At the time of writing, the facts on AOG Technics are still emerging. However, it looks likely that the AOG Technics issues will lead to engine inspections and a need for replacement parts. This, of course, will further exacerbate supply chain issues, and the industry will have even more need to turn to PMA, USM and DER repairs as safe solutions supporting continuous airworthiness.

This feature was first published in MRO Management – October 2023. To read the magazine in full, click here.

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