Industry voices: The best kept secret in MRO

Panasonic Technical Services says it is now the largest inflight entertainment and connectivity MRO in the world, and significantly increased its MRO footprint in Europe recently. Despite the company largely flying under the radar, VP and GM Tom Eskola (pictured below) now has an ambitious growth strategy in place

In-flight entertainment has undergone significant evolution since its inception in 1921, when the first in-flight movie was shown. As commercial flight gained trust and popularity, from the 1960s onwards, the need to provide entertainment for passengers, especially on long-haul routes, became evident.

Today, in-flight entertainment (IFE) is a far cry from the communal screen showing the same film to all passengers and now offers passengers a fully personalised at-seat experience, in-flight connectivity and many other bespoke entertainment services.

As an OEM, Panasonic Avionics has been at the forefront of IFE development since the launch of our first system in 1980 on the Boeing 767-200. Over the past 40 years, we have focused on developing IFE and connectivity solutions that enable our airline customers to continually enhance the passenger experience – a mission which has necessitated a bespoke MRO offering.

Panasonic Technical Services (PTS) is a division of Panasonic Avionics. We have flown under the radar to become the world’s largest IFEC (in-flight entertainment and connectivity) MRO, with 45 line stations and eight repair stations globally. Providing customised maintenance solutions that guarantee performance, we help drive strategic outcomes for our airline customers. We currently support in excess of 3,000 aircraft in service with 55 airlines, creating optimal flight experiences for passengers and supporting efficient operations. Our IFEC systems are at peak performance when coupled with Panasonic Technical Services maintenance.

In Europe, we have recently significantly increased our MRO footprint with the expansion of our facility in Dundalk, Ireland. Here we provide repairs, line maintenance, spares parts supply, technical services and training to customers in the EMEA region, and hold Part 145, TCAA, FAA and UK CAA approvals.

As the aviation industry recovers to pre-pandemic passenger levels, the demand for MRO workscopes remains at a premium. Panasonic Technical Services’ primary objective is to offer customised maintenance solutions, delivering greater peace of mind to our airline customers by ensuring guaranteed performance and cost.

Our expanded Dundalk facility is one of ten PTS locations within Europe and will give our customers in the EMEA region even greater flexibility for their IFE MRO requirements. In addition to our Ireland-based repair shop, we also have airport line maintenance stations in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Lisbon, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, Madrid, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Paris Orly and Rome Fiumicino. Supporting our European MRO capabilities, we’re also able to provide access to a global supply chain of IFEC hardware, software, LRUs and cabin components.

The universality of our services allows us to ensure airlines have access to the right parts with minimal turnaround times.

We expect to induct 1,500‑2,000 units per month at our Dundalk facility, where our technicians will repair Panasonic Avionics’ X series and Next IFE systems and Boeing CSS equipment, as well as being our European distribution centre.

Reliability of equipment and reduced turnaround times for IFE maintenance, whether scheduled or unscheduled, is of vital importance for airlines as faulty equipment impacts financially on the passenger payload.

Downtime of IFE equipment causes significant disruption for airlines. In many cases, airlines will choose not to sell a seat if the IFE is not functional. This is particularly an issue for long-haul flights. The availability and level of IFE can not only drive passengers to an airline, but can also help to retain them as they will be encouraged to fly with a carrier that has provided a good IFE experience.

At the Aircraft Interiors International show in Hamburg, Panasonic Avionics launched a pioneering new IFE solution. Astrova by Panasonic Avionics is our next generation IFE seat-end system, leveraging the latest, cutting-edge consumer electronics and avionics technology to redefine the entertainment experience passengers will have when flying for business and pleasure.

It provides airlines with a unique customer engagement channel where they can foster higher levels of passenger loyalty and improve their NPS scores by tailoring their in-flight entertainment experience based on passenger preferences, opt-in personalisation services, e-commerce and retail therapy, a 4K moving map platform, and much more.

Customer loyalty for Panasonic Avionics, as well as for own customers, is paramount to our ethos. While PTS is a strong choice for maintenance, our intention is to leverage our global footprint to provide innovative and directed maintenance, repair and material management solutions to airlines and third-party suppliers looking to enhance their capabilities.

In doing this, we aim to make Panasonic Technical Services the preferred MRO for IFE and connectivity maintenance for commercial airlines worldwide.

Tom Eskola was appointed as vice president and general manager of Panasonic Technical Services earlier this year. A US Army colonel with 22 years of service, Eskola has worked in the in-flight entertainment and connectivity business for the past 17 years, and first joined Panasonic Avionics in 2011.

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