Although most air­lines do their own line main­te­nance, 60 per cent of the world’s car­ri­ers out­source heavy work to lower costs

SP's Airbuz - - Table of Contents - BY R. CHAN­DRAKANTH

Pratt & Whit­ney’s large com­mer­cial en­gines power more than 25 per cent of the world’s main­line pas­sen­ger fleet.

IN THE AVI­A­TION IN­DUS­TRY, all engi­neer­ing as­pects have to be in per­fect play for 100 per cent safety. There is ab­so­lutely no room what­so­ever for any kind of er­ror as the slight­est of de­fect could have dis­as­trous re­sults. Hence, main­te­nance, re­pair and over­haul (MRO) are crit­i­cal com­po­nents in air­line op­er­a­tions. The In­ter­na­tional Air Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion (IATA) has in a re­port said that the MRO sec­tor is val­ued at over $45 bil­lion and grow­ing, con­sid­er­ing that there are more and more planes com­ing into the mar­ket. While air­craft man­u­fac­tur­ers are con­tin­u­ously work­ing on in­creas­ing the up­time of an air­craft, there are al­ways op­er­a­tional and tech­ni­cal is­sues which need to be at­tended to, be­sides the nor­mal main­te­nance sched­ules to keep the air­craft in fine con­di­tion.

AC­COUNTS FOR NEARLY 15 PER CENT OF OP­ER­AT­ING COSTS. It is es­ti­mated that MRO usu­ally rep­re­sents some 12 to 15 per cent of op­er­at­ing costs. Although most air­lines do their own line main­te­nance, 60 per cent of the world’s car­ri­ers out­source heavy work to lower costs. For in­stance, a huge chunk of MRO work goes out of In­dia to the Mid­dle East or South East Asia for want of an ad­e­quate and com­pre­hen­sive MRO net­work in In­dia. While Air In­dia has made in­vest­ments in MRO, there are other air­lines which have to de­pend on third-party MRO which is very nascent in In­dia. MRO re­quires huge in­vest­ments in in­fra­struc­ture which an air­line can ill-af­ford, un­less it has a large fleet of air­craft, go­ing be­yond 100.

Ac­cord­ing to Guen­ther Matschnigg, IATA Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent of Safety, Op­er­a­tions and In­fra­struc­ture, in the re­port said there is also ad­di­tional pres­sure to find busi­ness from third par­ties in order to spread costs and gen­er­ate rev­enue. “The need to get third-party con­tracts is grow­ing all the time. It is es­ti­mated that about 30-50 per cent of MRO work is third party. So while some

air­lines are get­ting out of MRO, oth­ers be­lieve they can find economies of scale by bulk­ing up the amount of work they do.”

IATA is smooth­ing progress wher­ever pos­si­ble, try­ing to en­sure MRO com­pa­nies and air­lines co­op­er­ate while main­tain­ing op­er­a­tional ex­cel­lence. The IATA Engi­neer­ing and Main­te­nance Group has es­tab­lished guide­lines on engi­neer­ing best prac­tice and the stan­dard­i­s­a­tion of tech­nol­ogy, for ex­am­ple. In par­tic­u­lar, its in­for­ma­tion ex­change en­ables mem­bers to quickly and con­fi­den­tially ex­change in­for­ma­tion on any mat­ter with tech­ni­cal im­pli­ca­tions.

AU­DIT SCHEME. The big break­through, though, would be an au­dit scheme for MRO, along the lines of IATA’s Op­er­a­tional Safety Au­dit and Safety Au­dit for Ground Op­er­a­tions. Many coun­tries re­quire au­dits that cost air­lines mil­lions of dol­lars ev­ery year. “MRO com­pa­nies are au­dited all the time,” says Matschnigg. “Anec­do­tal ev­i­dence from some of the ma­jor play­ers sug­gests that there can be as much as one au­dit ev­ery week. We have to stop this au­dit frenzy—it wastes money and valu­able re­sources.”

How­ever, the MRO sec­tor is awash with reg­u­la­tors and reg­u­la­tions, so sat­is­fy­ing all re­quire­ments will be a tall order. “But imag­ine what it would be like if a ma­jor MRO com­pany only got au­dited once,” points out Matschnigg. “The cost sav­ings would be enor­mous.” Chem­i­cal waste prod­ucts from en­gine washes are a case in point. IATA has formed work­ing groups to look at best prac­tice and a means of dis­sem­i­nat­ing this in­for­ma­tion to the in­dus­try. Then there is train­ing. New tech­niques and stan­dards could greatly en­hance MRO per­for­mance. There are no cur­rent re­cruit­ment prob­lems, although short­ages are ex­pected as the in­dus­try re­turns to growth.

QUAL­ITY IS ALL THAT MAT­TERS. Qual­ity, qual­ity and qual­ity is the only an­swer for MRO. Qual­ity is de­fined as “in­her­ent fea­ture, a de­gree of ex­cel­lence, hav­ing cer­tain prop­er­ties and grade.” While qual­ity could mean dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple, air­craft main­te­nance or­gan­i­sa­tions or MROs should de­fine qual­ity as a col­lec­tion of pro­cesses de­signed and im­ple­mented to en­sure ad­e­quate qual­ity ex­ists in both avi­a­tion main­te­nance pro­cesses and prod­ucts.

Qual­ity as­sur­ance (QA) is a com­po­nent of qual­ity man­age­ment sys­tem and MROs have to in­cor­po­rate that in their day to day ac­tiv­i­ties. QA is closely iden­ti­fied with ISO-9000, Six Sigma and other such cer­ti­fi­ca­tions. QA is a process-based sys­tem that places more em­pha­sis on how some­thing is made rather than the fi­nal prod­uct. The rapid evo­lu­tion of com­put­ers and their wide­spread use in man­u­fac­tur­ing has al­lowed the process to be­come the fo­cus of qual­ity as­sur­ance, be­cause com­put­ers can per­form the same func­tion many times with lit­tle or no er­ror.

AVI­A­TION CHAL­LENGES ARE DIF­FER­ENT. Chris Grosenick, a Qual­ity As­sur­ance Spe­cial­ist at the NASA Lan­g­ley Re­search Cen­ter in Hamp­ton, Vir­ginia, states that in avi­a­tion the chal­lenges are dif­fer­ent and QA has to be that much more com­pre­hen­sive. MRO is gov­erned by sev­eral fac­tors such as statu­tory re­quire­ments (the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Reg­u­la­tions), orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­turer (OEM) main­te­nance sched­ules and re­quire­ments (air­craft main­te­nance man­ual), in­dus­try stan­dards and spec­i­fi­ca­tions and gen­eral main­te­nance prac­tices. When a main­te­nance sit­u­a­tion is not cov­ered by any of these doc­u­ments or pro­ce­dures, the AMT must rely on ei­ther ex­pe­ri­ence or guid­ance from an­other tech­ni­cian or in­spec­tor to ac­com­plish the re­pair.

As a gen­eral rule, avi­a­tion main­te­nance should be done in ac­cor­dance with the ap­pli­ca­ble OEM main­te­nance man­ual and the sup­port­ing OEM pro­cesses and pro­ce­dures for gen­eral re­pairs. When this guid­ance does not ex­ist, an AC 43.13 re­pair, or MIL-STD/MIL-SPEC pro­ce­dure is war­ranted, de­pend­ing on the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tem for the sub­ject air­craft. An in­dus­try stan­dard process can be used if no other in­for­ma­tion is avail­able, and for cer­tifi­cated air­craft, a 337/field ap­proval is one so­lu­tion. Most of the time an OEM re­pair is avail­able, and there is lit­tle need to find an­other so­lu­tion. The rea­son an OEM so­lu­tion is pre­ferred is be­cause an in­spec­tor/IA will use the main­te­nance man­ual set to per­form an an­nual or sign off a ma­jor re­pair.

QUAL­ITY AND SAFETY. Re­it­er­at­ing the im­por­tance of qual­ity and safety is a must. Chris Grosenick states that it is not pos­si­ble to have a safe air­craft without some sort of qual­ity as­sur­ance pro­gramme. For many FBOs, that pro­gramme is one or two IAs in res­i­dence, and for larger op­er­a­tions it’s the QA depart­ment. Safety and qual­ity are as much a state of mind as they are an of­fice staffed with peo­ple, and all lev­els of man­age­ment must work to­gether to en­sure both are ad­dressed in the same process. The tech­ni­cian is on the front line in this process since it is they that have most of the ex­po­sure to the hardware and the main­te­nance func­tions, and it is most im­por­tant that man­age­ment and the tech­ni­cians have the same mind­set when it comes to the qual­ity process.

On the other hand, a good QA pro­gramme is im­por­tant to the AMT be­cause it cre­ates a work­place where the tech­ni­cians can de­velop their skills and learn more about the main­te­nance process than just the nuts and bolts re­pairs. It cre­ates mu­tual re­spect be­tween man­age­ment and the work­force, and more im­por­tantly, it cre­ates a busi­ness with a pro­fes­sional at­ti­tude where cus­tomers will con­tinue to their air­craft.

RE­SEARCH AND TRAIN­ING. What should be in­cluded in qual­ity train­ing? Safety, pro­cure­ment, con­fig­u­ra­tion man­age­ment, sta­tis­ti­cal process con­trol, ba­sic engi­neer­ing, hu­man fac­tors, and core col­lege sub­jects all pro­vide a good foun­da­tion for a QA in­spec­tor. Non-col­lege train­ing and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion are avail­able from or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety for Qual­ity. Many larger com­pa­nies have in-house train­ing or ac­quire the train­ing from in­de­pen­dent con­sul­tants. For smaller op­er­a­tions, like FBOs and pri­vate shops, most QA type train­ing re­volves around in­for­ma­tion con­tained in the FARs and other reg­u­la­tory sys­tems, be­cause a small op­er­a­tion does not need a com­plex qual­ity as­sur­ance process.

Avi­a­tion QA is a mix of sev­eral oc­cu­pa­tions and abil­i­ties: tech­ni­cal and trou­bleshoot­ing skill, engi­neer­ing, psy­chol­ogy, phi­los­o­phy, and diplo­macy. It is a vi­tal part of ev­ery air­craft main­te­nance op­er­a­tion, re­gard­less of size. Qual­ity as­sur­ance needs peo­ple who are both well versed in air­craft main­te­nance, and able to adapt to the qual­ity cul­ture em­bod­ied in ISO 9001. A well-man­aged qual­ity as­sur­ance process, to­gether with good air­craft de­sign and proper main­te­nance are all keys to pro­vid­ing safe air­craft for all types of op­er­a­tions.


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