Despite the remarkable growth of air traffic in Russia and across the CIS the regional air transportation system is yet to see major changes. Russian airports serviced 112.4 million passengers in 2011, which is 12.9 per cent more than in 2010. At the same time Boeing forecasts that air traffic to and from the CIS region will grow at a rate of 4.7 per cent annually. Despite the optimistic prognosis, the backbone of the regional fleet is still formed by An-24 and An-26-100 turboprops, Yak-40 and Yak-42 tri-jets, and Tu-134 twin jet. Some of these aircraft have been operational for dozens of years. Currently approx. 89% of the Russian / Soviet-made aircraft in Russia are older than 10 years, meaning that local airlines will face significant fleet renewals during the next 10-15 years. To fly safely, the renewed fleet will require proper maintenance. Therefore, it is high time to start developing a re-type plan for the current employees, if local providers wish to take part in the tremendous MRO business in the future.
‘Russia used to be a big MRO provider when hundreds of domestic airlines and aircraft operators in foreign countries operated thousands of airliners made in the Soviet Union. The Soviet fleet has since dwindled significantly, leaving a considerably smaller customer base for the Russian MRO specialists. Today, Russia is almost absent from the global MRO market that is estimated at ~$49B US dollars,’ comments Dainius Sakalauskas, the Deputy Head of FL Technics Training.
Table 1. Western/Non-Western aircraft fleet in the CIS 2002-2012, Ascend data.
Currently, there are only a few independent players active in Russia that can carry out more than elementary line maintenance tasks. The major Russian companies which provide MRO services for the Russian-made planes are mainly the airlines themselves.
The current situation provides a number of opportunities for foreign companies including the provision of MRO services (component maintenance in particular), subcontracting in new aircraft production both in Russia and abroad, sales of second hand aircraft and providing aviation maintenance training services. It’s only natural that the increasing number of foreign aircraft operated in Russia and the CIS leads to an increasing need for services in the field of MRO. The existing infrastructure with the current workforce skills simply cannot fulfil the demand for the MRO on foreign aircraft. All MRO activities by these foreign providers, except any maintenance works which need to be carried out on the spot by definition, are taking place in hangars abroad.
‘Nowadays customers expect nothing less than quality and value today. Furthermore, modern aviation maintenance institutions must be able to produce competent maintenance personnel with up-to-date knowledge and skills. The re-skilling of the existing workforce to support new differentiation strategies is becoming a paramount issue for most corporations, regardless of their industry. The introduction of new aircraft types urges maintenance organizations to further develop the qualification of their staff. From the beginning of this summer, at least 2 weeks-long practical training must be conducted at a Part 147 certified training institution for everyone seeking their AML endorsement with aircraft type. Those seeking it for the very first time must also carry out ‘on the job training’ at a Part 145 certified organisation. The new requirements for the aircraft maintenance technicians to complete a practical course consisting of hands-on practical training are necessary,’ says D. Sakalauskas.