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Maintaining props

The need for low cost maintenance solutions for regional aircraft – particularly turboprops – is enabling more long-term MRO contracts, as well as choice, as Keith Mwanalushi reports

Analysts at Forecast International project that a total of 5,728 regional aircraft will be produced in the 15-year period from 2017 through 2031, including both regional jets and regional turboprop airliners. The value of this production is estimated at $213 billion.

Forecast International’s market share projections show ATR is forecast to build 1,175 regional turboprops, and competitor Bombardier, which produces both jets and turboprops, is expected to produce 836 regional aircraft.

The large turboprop market is essentially a duopoly between ATR and Bombardier. Both OEMs are pushing hard with their respective long-term maintenance agreement offers to air operators.

ATR’s Global Maintenance Agreement (GMA) covers a series of MRO services and currently, over 300 ATRs are covered by GMAs, nearly one-third of the ATR fleet in operation.

“GMAs will grow and are a great way to get close to customers,” declares Tom Anderson, ATR’s Senior Vice President Programs and Customer Services.

“The contracts signed this year show just how packages can be adapted to meet customers’ particular requirements.”

GMA contracts signed in 2017 included a new six-year extension with Irish regional airline Stobart Air covering the repair, overhaul and pooling services of line replaceable units (LRUs), along with propellers’ availability and maintenance. In another deal, Avianca Holdings signed up to cover 15 ATR 72-600s operating under different brands of Avianca in Colombia, Guatemala and Honduras. Others have included Azul in Brazil, or Air Nostrum in Spain.

ATR has clearly introduced big players into its GMA portfolio, ranging from the low cost market to subsidiaries of larger or national carriers. “Also, while GMAs started with the ATR 42/72-500 and has since extended to the later ATR 42/72-600, there is a growing requirement from operators with the legacy -200/300 models. Part of this demand is the nature of the airlines, as they tend to be smaller organisations with smaller fleets and often in remote areas. ATR still works with these operators in the same way as for entry into service of a new model,” says Anderson.

It is clear that OEM pay-by-the-hour maintenance programmes are increasingly popular, and by signing up it is hoped aircraft operators can maximise the long-term value and ease of management of fleet investments.

Effective maintenance support is a key element of customer satisfaction for MRO, and ATR is fully committed to that, states Anderson. “Increasingly, this is through pay-by-the-hour GMAs, which are tailor-made for each customer for on-aircraft and off-aircraft maintenance.” He adds that it is the operator who decides the level of investment and has access to a wide number of services, including guaranteed spares availability with stock on site; spares pool access; and LRU repair services.

ATR holds more than 35,000 part numbers in stock (airframe, rotables, rotable breakdown parts, hardware, consumables, standard kits, engines, and tooling), as well as the lease of components and tools, repair, test and overhaul services, and standard exchange services. Spares include both new and used serviceable material, ATR being an active player in the market for the latter through parting out of aircraft. Anderson says consumables are distributed by KLX Aerospace Solutions, while ATR has begun to pre-assemble kits of parts for Service Bulletins in its Paris warehouse to provide a faster response.

“The overall idea is to reduce risk through a predictable financial budget to cover MRO costs and availability of costly rotable items, along with guaranteed turnaround times and optimised logistics solutions with DHL.” For example, Anderson states Air Algérie uses the Paris warehouse, whereas Azul in Brazil is supplied from Miami. He notes that there are additional warehouses in Singapore and Auckland. In addition, there is the I-CARE loyalty programme, which offers credit rewards against expenditure with ATR for parts and services.

Recent media reports have suggested Pratt & Whitney’s grip on the regional turboprop market [through its Canadian arm] could come under threat after ATR said it would look closely at alternative engines for its aircraft in the future, thereby opening up the market to the possibility of other players.

But in the meantime, Frédéric Lefebvre, Vice President Marketing at Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC), says that with well over 10,000 engines on one of its pay-per-hour maintenance programmes, “P&WC is an industry leader in delivering flexible plans with strong value for airlines.”

Lefebvre says through the Fleet Management Program (FMP) and P&WCSMART Maintenance Solutions portfolio for PW100-powered regional aircraft customers, P&WC is undergoing a major shift to provide tailored maintenance cost guarantees that are adapted to each airline’s evolving business needs, financial models and fleet strategies.

“As part of this shift, we are catering to the subtleties and intricacies of our customers’ businesses, and the customer feedback has been very positive. Our FMP plans simplify engine management for airlines and provide a financial planning platform that guarantees operating costs and is customised to operators’ individual requirements,” Lefebvre elaborates.

Similarly, he says the P&WCSMART maintenance service portfolio provides guaranteed fixed costs for major engine maintenance, using genuine P&WC parts, eliminating price variables and uncertainty – addressing a major concern by many regional airlines. “As a testament to the programme’s value, for the second year consecutively the number of customers has more than tripled and customer orders have increased more than twofold,” reports Lefebvre.„ >>

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