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Market demand creates opportunities for one-stop MRO and engineering solutions [MRO Editorial] Open the MRO Magazine - April 2023 Edition

Etihad Airways Engineering are expanding capacity to meet global demand for MRO services including collaborating with industry players likes AMROS Global for value added services such as aircraft transition solutions as AviTrader MRO reports.

Etihad Airways Engineering announced a string of new developments and partnerships recently. The Abu Dhabi-based MRO is making big bold moves with plans of to build two new widebody hangars onsite to serve more aircraft at its existing facility.

David Doherty, Acting VP Commercial at Etihad Airways Engineering tells AviTrader MRO that heavy maintenance continues to be in high demand due to aircraft returning from storage after the pandemic – “Our hangars are fully utilised, with intensive maintenance checks on the main Airbus and Boeing platforms including 12-year A380 checks.” He says the MRO company is working on a range of retrofits outside of the normal C-check requirements as airlines look to consolidate their fleets and standardise their products. “We are seeing a high demand for aircraft painting as aircraft parked for an extended period are returning to operation, and many rebranding projects are being undertaken by large airlines. We are also supporting fleet transitions as one of the areas in demand in the MRO market currently,” Doherty observes.

In March, the company announced an ambitious project to expand the capacity of its 500,000 sqm aircraft maintenance facility adjacent to Abu Dhabi International Airport in collaboration with Aircraft Support Industries. The new hangars include extending the existing 2-bay A380 hangar 6 with one more bay, and a new 2-bay hangar 7. As Doherty explains, hangar 7 will predominantly support an upcoming passenger-to-freighter (P2F) conversion programme while hangar 6 will expand capacity for third party operators.

According to Doherty, hangar 7 is being constructed specifically to support the P2F conversion programme. He says it is equipped with the requisite infrastructure to support such a large conversion programme with extensive docking and lifting equipment. In terms of timescale, it’s expected to be operational by the end of 2023.

“We have seen an increased demand in the A380 business from our third-party customers as well as internally with Etihad Airways taking the decision to return its A380s aircraft to service.” Doherty noted that with the A380 maintenance business, although there is a short-term market, it remains to be seen how long that market will exist as there are no new aircraft being produced. “Certainly, the market will not grow in terms of fleet size and as aircraft operators find alternate solutions in terms of aircraft type that fit their business model, we would expect the A380 to be retired from fleets over the next six to ten years.”

Etihad Airways Engineering have teamed up with the AMROS Group, to offer transition Continuing Airworthiness Management Organisation (CAMO) services as a part of its comprehensive suite of aircraft maintenance and engineering solutions. Giuseppe Renga, Group CEO at AMROS explains that transition CAMO emerges from the requirements from aircraft owners to maintain their assets in a controlled environment, for instance during lease transitions or parking and storage periods to manage its airworthiness – “The goal should be to facilitate the asset transfer to various operators or owners and make sure the aircraft has all the maintenance tasks performed for redelivery.”

Renga indicates that one of the benefits of an independent transition CAMO such as AMROS Global is having established and proper procedures, IT systems, and connections with aviation authorities all in place. He also stresses the importance of having the same goals in mind with partner MROs. “By having an exclusive CAMO partner, it benefits the MRO be relying on deep mutual understanding, established quality systems and short communication channels, which ultimately benefits the joint goal towards the customer,” he states.

Change of lease transactions can be problematic if not managed effectively and as Renga highlights, a good redelivery starts with the phase-in of an aircraft into the fleet with proper planning before redelivery – “If the phase-in is done properly, risk at redelivery can be reduced substantially. Frequently, lease agreements are not properly integrated into asset management of aircraft, which results in substantial expenditures at redelivery of aircraft.” Renga adds, for operators, this could mean redelivery delays, penalty fees, unplanned components, material purchases and maintenance fees and for aircraft lessors, the costs could easily lead to the delay in delivering the aircraft to new customers, as with a potential asset value reduction due to missing documentation, data for example.

Renga reckons the combination of Etihad Airways Engineering as a Part-145 MRO and AMROS Global as Part-CAMO, is a win-win scenario with an established role in the parts and material supply-chain. Despite that, the global industry has been struggling from supply chain disruptions and Doherty recognises the nature of the challenges. “Each aircraft type seems to have different challenges in terms of specific components that MROs are finding challenging to obtain. Also, we see that there are certain components that don’t seem to be as well supported as others.”

Etihad Airways Engineering and AMROS teams at MRO Middle East
Etihad Airways Engineering and AMROS teams at MRO Middle East

At Etihad Airways Engineering, it all comes down to the relationships with suppliers and customers and careful planning while keeping the possible challenges in mind. “With proper planning, we can circumnavigate many of the problems by being prepared beforehand, knowing the materials we would require and letting the supplier know in good time to meet our schedule. As one of the very few MROs with an onsite additive manufacturing facility producing 3D printed aircraft cabin parts, we are able to produce and install cabin parts that may not be easily available in the market or have very long lead times. We are also expanding our additive manufacturing capability to fill in the supply chain gaps and meet the high demand for aircraft parts from our customers across the globe,” Doherty states.

Meanwhile, in terms of the current and medium-term outlook for fleet technical services especially from the Middle East region, Renga reports that AMROS are well established in the region and with the collaboration with Etihad Airways Engineering, that will lead to a further expansion of capabilities and network, which is crucial in responding to the strong increase in demand in the Middle East and Asia region, including India.

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