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Breaking it down

The aircraft disassembly and teardown business continues to see spikes in demand for regional aircraft parts. Paul E Eden examines the key drivers in the market
There’s always been value in components removed from retired aircraft, but under today’s market conditions, harvested parts are more attractive than ever for airlines operating older fleets. For them, high-quality, carefully managed repaired parts can make more sense than brand new OEM components.
When an aircraft reaches the end of its economical service life, the old adage that the parts are worth more than the whole is most often true, especially so when operators are keen to keep older fleets in operation. The process of tearing old aircraft down and reclaiming usable parts has itself fuelled an industry, one of high standards that delivers parts of exceptional quality back into the supply chain.
Teardown is frequently an activity within a larger operation, with companies often specialising in particular aircraft types or markets, and serving a selection of regular customers, while others harvest parts to support their own operations. Based in Luxemburg, Vallair is an excellent example, offering engineering, conversion and disassembly, as well as leasing and selling aircraft released from previous lessors and operators. Specialising in the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320, Vallair primarily disassembles those types, releasing spares for its own inventory.
Patrik Huiberts, Vallair’s Head of Teardown, says the company has overhaul capabilities and can return the majority of liberated parts to serviceability, increasing their value to its own operation and external customers. Thinking about the wider market, Huiberts identifies what he sees as the key drivers in the market for airworthy used parts.
“They are the higher costs of older aircraft, through increased fuel consumption and higher maintenance costs, for example, while long lead times on new aircraft force operators to retain aircraft in service longer, placing a demand on older parts.”
The value of parts or complete assemblies depends on a number of factors but, on average, Huiberts reckons: “If their status is okay and they have greentime remaining, the most valuable by far are engines, followed by landing gear, electronic and environmental systems, flight deck components and APUs.” In terms of smaller parts, he lists wheels and brakes, and actuators, in descending order of value.
Over in the UK, AerFin’s approach is somewhat different to Vallair’s. James Bennett, Director Sales and Marketing, explains: “Our in-house team works with a best-in-class network of MROs and OEMs to manage the repair of off-coming material, enabling us to deliver a range of component support solutions to our strategic customer base.
“Our management of Cathay Pacific’s 11 A340s is a perfect example of a bespoke AerFin exit strategy. We managed the phase-out and disassembly of the aircraft, enabling Cathay to benefit from remarketing to our extensive customer base.” Bennett chooses the Cathay deal as an example of AerFin’s comprehensive service, but also acknowledges its keen interest in the regional market.
“It’s hugely significant, mostly due to our involvement with the Embraer E-Jet. We acquired 15 Embraer E170LR aircraft from Saudi Arabian Airlines, giving us the largest global E-Jet inventory outside of an OEM. We see significant E-Jet operator demand for lower cost spares support solutions, since the market has largely been OEM dominated, with few options for material cost reduction; our ‘BeyondPool’ programme service offering addresses the issue.” In the wider regional market, Bennett identifies the Bombardier CRJ as a key part of AerFin’s regional strategy.
“This has arisen through the significant component commonality between the E-Jet’s CF34-8E engine and the -8C that powers some CRJs.” E-Jet, CRJ or otherwise, Bennett reckons AerFin’s customers are united in demanding exceptional service and quality, whether their assets are being disassembled or they’re buying parts. “They want to know that a safe, efficient and reliable process is in place for disassembly, which is why AerFin only partners with the very best in the business for aircraft disassembly, and we use our own facility for engines to ensure full quality control.
“When they’re buying used inventory, our customers want to be sure that they’re getting components of the highest quality, which is why we only work with established repair facilities, whether it is OEMs, or long-standing global MROs.” Headquartered in Bangor, ME, C&L Aviation also has specialities in the regional aircraft market, offering services that range through disassembly and maintenance to exterior paint.
Taking Embraer’s products as an example, Calvin Tuitt, SVP of Business Development MRO, says: “We offer full capability on the ERJ135 and ERJ145, and we’re approved to perform line maintenance and exterior painting on the ERJ170 and 190, although the latter may evolve into full heavy maintenance in the future.” The ERJ145 unsurprisingly features heavily in C&L’s teardown business, although Tuitt says the ATR72 is also important since: “There is currently high demand for components from these aircraft against MRO and operator spare parts requirements.” >>

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