Ken Fitzgibbon, chief executive of Dublin-based aircraft recycling specialist EirTrade, observes that in a sector facing many and varied challenges which cannot be anticipated, it is vital that it predicts what it can – from end-of-life asset values to workforce challenges
Predictability in all walks of business is highly desirable, but anyone who works in aviation knows all too well a lot can happen that simply can’t be anticipated.
Volcanic eruptions, weather events, bird strikes and industrial action can all upset best‑laid plans – and who could have predicted a two‑year grounding due to a global pandemic?
This is why it’s vital that we predict what we can in the aviation sector, particularly as it’s faced with supply chain issues and workforce challenges.
This is no more evident than in MRO, and that is why Predictive Aircraft Maintenance is a topic of growing importance as airlines look to operate more efficiently and sustainably.
Modern data analytics allow operators a much more detailed understanding of their operations, enabling them to anticipate future needs. We’ll hear plenty about this at this year’s Predictive Aircraft Maintenance Conference organised by MRO Management and Aviation Business News.
In EirTrade’s world, predictability is all about how we realise the value in an asset at end-of-life. That aircraft is not going to operate again, but what is the residual value?
We break the asset down and look at the value of everything we can sell so customers have a fair idea what they can expect before they go to market.
We’ve got a production line for dismantling, just as Boeing has for building aircraft, and what makes us different is that we have a process whereby we can tear down a narrowbody in just 15 days.
We have developed jacks that allow us to take off the landing gear and get to the most valuable parts first, so customers can get a predictable return on their asset sooner.
What’s harder to predict in terms of aircraft at end of life is the materials OEMs will use during manufacturing and whether or not these can be recycled, such as carbon fibre.
Why is an OEM permitted to manufacture an aircraft without a proper procedure for recycling? If they know what’s in the aircraft, why are they not looking for the correct solution?
They’re primarily focused on making the aircraft more fuel-efficient but, by using those lightweight materials like carbon fibre, they solved one issue and created another, pushing the problem down the line.
Something that is predictable in aviation, I’m afraid, is the lack of qualified engineers in the sector, which is not going to be solved any time soon.
B1 and B2 mechanics are extremely hard to find, and they are demanding higher and higher wages, so you have to ask what are the cost implications from a maintenance point of view.
Do we have enough people coming through from college that want to become B1 and B2 mechanics? How do we attract talent to the industry?
This cost and efficiency squeeze in MRO is going to make it even more important for airlines to predict as much as then can when and what maintenance services they are going to require.
This feature was first published in MRO Management – June 2023. To read the magazine in full, click here.