The past year has been a defining one for the A220 programme, with the aircraft, formerly known as the C Series, experiencing an important boost and revival with the acquisition by Airbus of a majority stake in the programme leading to new orders and deliveries.
Having received all required regulatory approvals, Airbus, Bombardier and Investissement Québec agreed to close the C Series transaction earlier in 2018, which became effective on 1 July 2018.
The transaction by which Airbus acquired a majority stake in the C Series Aircraft Limited Partnership (CSALP) had been initially announced in October 2017.
The partnership, which was originally established between Bombardier and IQ, will benefit from Airbus’ global reach, scale, procurement organisation and expertise in selling, marketing and producing the C Series, later rebranded as the A220.
17 A220 aircraft were delivered in 2017 and the programme is gearing up to double its deliveries in 2018. During the past year the A220 has also been delivered to Korean Air, the third operator of the type following earlier deliveries to launch customer SWISS and to airBaltic.
In May 2018, airBaltic, the first operator of the A220-300 back in December 2016, announced a firm purchase agreement for the sale and purchase of 30 Airbus A220-300 aircraft with options for an additional 30 aircraft of the same type.
The order complements the existing order of 20 A220-300 aircraft and forms the backbone of the new airBaltic’s business plan Destination 2025 that builds on the successful progress of the current airline’s business plan Horizon 2021, which has laid the groundwork for future expansion.
The addition of JetBlue as a new customer has further strengthened the order backlog, the US airline has in fact signed a memorandum of understanding for 60 firm orders for the larger A220-300 model.
Maintenance poor strategy
In light of the involvement of Airbus in the programme, the maintenance support strategy for the A220 aircraft is developing so that it can rely on Airbus’ extensive global network. Additionally, the experience of A220 operators is that the transition to Airbus’ leadership of the programme is being a very smooth one.
“With the Airbus involvement in the programme, we are glad to have another very strong partner by our side. As the owner of the controlling stake in the programme, Airbus, with its vast experience and resources, clearly has a central role in further enhancing the maintenance support strategy,” says airBaltic.
“We have always enjoyed excellent support from CSALP/Bombardier on the C Series and that is in equal measure also true for the Airbus support on our A320, A330 and A340 fleets. There was no interruption or degradation at all of the support given during the transition of the C Series to Airbus,” says SWISS.
“Bombardier has already dispatched experienced line maintenance technicians to support line maintenance at Korean Air. The cooperation of technicians and engineers from the two parties has promoted the technical understanding of the C Series and improved overall maintenance efficiency.
Therefore, for now, there has been no dramatic change in maintenance support after the rebranding to A220-300 from CS300. We expect that Airbus would gradually support us with an improved maintenance programme based on professional experience and a bigger support infrastructure,” says Korean Air.
Indeed, Airbus is building on the maintenance know-how which existed prior to the C Series acquisition, and is currently reviewing the extension of the Airbus portfolio of services to the A220. “This includes in particular the spare parts worldwide distribution leveraging the extensive Airbus network. Integration work is ongoing,” says Airbus.
Several maintenance tasks have been performed on the aircraft since its entry into service (EIS), but no major ones have been conducted yet.
“The A220 customers have performed all maintenance as required by the certification authorities. Well over 70 line checks have been completed with no findings. It should be noted this is a new aircraft programme, early in its lifecycle, so there will not be any heavy checks for some time yet,” says Airbus.
“Since entry into service all applicable scheduled maintenance tasks were performed as per the maintenance planning document (MPD). These tasks include inspections, operational checks, functional checks and general servicing, for example, the lubrication of components,” says SWISS.
The first A220-300 was delivered in December 2017 to Korean Air, which is now operating six A220-300 with four more to come. “Three of them have completed the first A check since their EIS. The A checks were successfully carried out following the maintenance programme and manuals, and no significant flaw has been discovered,” says Korean Air.
“For the successful EIS of the first A220-300, experts from Bombardier and its authorised service facility SAMCO Aircraft Maintenance visited Korea and supported Korean Air’s maintenance personnel up close on site. It was a meaningful opportunity for us to understand more about the newly introduced aircraft with a strong communication channel built between the two entities. Bombardier also allocated some spare parts in Seoul to support our operation. So far, we have been quite satisfied with the aftersale support programme of the A220-300.”
airBaltic does line maintenance up to A checks on the A220-300 aircraft.
“Similar to other technology sectors, there are certain technical nuances in aviation that are characteristic to new equipment that require additional attention and upgrades during the initial stages of exploitation. We are working in close cooperation with the aircraft manufacturer, as well as the engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney,” says airBaltic.
“So far, airBaltic has received 11 of its A220-300 orders. The aircraft has performed beyond company’s expectations, delivering better overall performance, fuel efficiency and convenience for both staff and passengers. The fuel economy of the A220-300 has reached 21 per cent.
“The aircraft offers excellent flying experience with benefits for passengers such as wider seats, larger windows, more hand luggage space in the cabin, improved lavatories and more. The A220-300 is also much quieter – with a noise footprint which is four times lower.
“Moreover, at the moment, it is the greenest commercial aircraft in the world, as it is the first aircraft to have a transparent declaration of the lifecycle environmental impact, helping to reduce CO2 and NOX emissions by 20 per cent and 50 per cent respectively.”
Aircraft maintenance organisation SAMCO Aircraft Maintenance is approved for both line and base maintenance, as well as continuing airworthiness management services on the A220.
“Base maintenance is being performed from the Maastricht facility which has recently been expanded to accommodate the A220 as well as other narrow body types,” says Constant van Schaik, chief executive officer of SAMCO Aircraft Maintenance.
“Additionally, we provide worldwide line maintenance support and entry into service [EIS] support for operators that receive the aircraft during the initial start-up phase. Usually the technicians stay onsite at the operator’s base for a period for four to six months. During this six months technicians support the operator’s technical staff with performing the regular maintenance tasks and troubleshooting.”
“From our base maintenance facility we support onsite working parties for upgrades or additional work upon the operators’ request. The onsite work mainly consists of minor upgrade programmes and modifications which are common to a newly developed aircraft. These upgrades are done without in-service disruption of the aircraft mainly during nights or weekends,” says van Schaik.
“During the first quarter of this year we have performed a nose to tail upgrade programme for SWISS at our Maastricht facilities. A tight planning and on-site support from Airbus/Bombardier ensured completion ahead of the planned end date. We are now preparing in close collaboration with SWISS and airBaltic the work packages for the first C checks which will start in January 2019. The Maastricht facility is well equipped including a significant quantity of tooling and equipment.”
“At the moment Korean Air is operating the A220 very successfully today with a high utilisation. They are managing their services in-house with the technical support of Airbus. As we continue to expand outside Europe we will be answering the needs of our customers as they enter into service,” says Airbus.
Since the start of the C Series programme, Lufthansa Technical Training (LTT) has been appointed as Authorised Training Provider in order to ensure that training needs for technicians are fulfilled. “In turn, LTT receives engineering support from the aircraft manufacturer,” says Airbus.
“Besides the completion of regular type training and practical training requirements for the issue of the EASA license – which usually takes three to four months, our EIS technicians have been trained at the flight line in Montreal for a six month period prior to the first delivery to SWISS in 2016,” says van Schaik.
“During this period a wealth of vendor training has been received enhancing the competence of our technicians. Our teams have been at SWISS, airBaltic and Korean Air and are planning for Delta Airlines towards the end of the year as well as various other operators in 2019.”
“Korean Air has trained more than 120 qualified maintenance personnel for line and base maintenance through the A220-300 aircraft type training course. The 260-hour training course over 33 days enables the acquisition of both theoretical and practical skills on aircraft system, airframe, electrical, avionics and so on,” says Korean Air.
“Also, we have trained more than 260 qualified maintenance personnel, who have completed specialised training courses associated with the A220-300 aircraft type training such as engine type training, structural repair training and more. Korean Air Maintenance Training Centre will continue to train qualified maintenance personnel who fulfil the job qualification requirement of MROs and are capable of improving the safety and quality of maintenance.”
The A220 is a new aircraft which, in the experience of the operators, is performing well from a technical point of view. “We regularly review all scheduled and unscheduled maintenance with the aircraft manufacturer and suppliers to derive corrective action where applicable. Consequently, there is no system that stands out in terms of criticality over the entire time of aircraft operation,” says SWISS.
“Nuisance messages tend to appear frequently, which is quite common for all newly developed aircraft until they reach a mature stage. We have been implementing counter measures such as modifications and upgrades with the support from the OEM,” says Korean Air. “As agility is critical to tackle the early stage multiple problems, the continuous and robust aftersale support and strong coordination capability of the OEM is essential is essential in the OEM-operator partnership.”
“All the major systems are performing as designed. There are no particular systems issues that stand out as being ‘critical’. We receive excellent feedback in service – operators trust the aircraft. For example, airBaltic has pushed the daily utilisation up to 18 hours per day; while Korean Air and SWISS operate more than 10 legs per day. Repeat orders from airBaltic are a great testimony of this trust,” concludes Airbus.