Continued high fuel costs, historically low interest rates and a drive to reduce costs while increasing profits have led to an unprecedented demand for more efficient and reliable aircraft. As a result, the global airline fleet is expected to receive over 16 500 new aircraft by 2024, while over 6 500 older aircraft will retire. Thus, as the world’s fleet incorporates younger aircraft with new technologies and materials, the civil aftermarket needs to adapt accordingly.
As the world continues to recover from the global financial crisis of 2008, commercial aircraft manufacturers have never seen a better market. At the beginning of 2014, there were 23 000 commercial aircraft in service with the world’s airlines. Moreover, this fleet is expected to grow at a healthy 3.6% average annual rate to nearly 33 000 by 2024. As a result, TeamSAI expects 8 001 aircraft to be delivered in the next five years. However, up to 40% of the new deliveries are replacement aircraft, which means the airlines are increasingly renewing their fleet and are thus in need of a comprehensive replacement strategy for each of their aircraft types.
According to Andrius Norkevicius, the COO of FL Technics Engineering, aircraft acquisition and aircraft replacement involves decisions on when and how many aircraft to purchase, lease and dispose of within an airline’s planning horizon. And that is only the tip of the iceberg, since the process is an end-to-end examination of the new airplane, what it'll do and how it will fit with the existing facilities.
“Introducing a new aircraft at an airline requires an entire ecosystem of functions. These range from flight operations to crew scheduling and training, as well as maintenance, regardless of whether it is a completely new type - for example LOT Polish Airlines with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner - or an existing type that is new to an airline's fleet, such as Aeroflot’s on-going introduction of the B777s and B737NGs,” shares Andrius Norkevicius. “Moreover, when it comes to maintenance work for new generation aircraft, the intervals between checks should be expected to increase significantly, so appropriate re-planning should also be conducted with regard to maintenance programs.”
Mr. Norkevicius emphasizes that while new aircraft certainly increase revenue potential and lower fuel and carbon emissions costs, the ownership costs actually increase. For instance, when switching to a B737-800 from a comparable older generation narrowbody, the ownership is approximately $2.2 million more expensive. Thus choosing the right maintenance partner is essential for the operator to ensure it makes the most of its asset by minimizing downtime and total costs of ownership.
“Underestimating workscope can actually end up costing the operator more. Meanwhile, by ensuring a more holistic approach to maintenance operations, it is possible to achieve increased value. For instance, various IT solutions can give accurate calculations, allowing airlines to reach the maximum intervals between maintenance, therefore keeping the aircraft flying for longer and potentially reducing the number of shop visits. As a result, it‘s estimated that if operators can reduce their maintenance costs by just 10%, they could double their profits,” says the COO of FL Technics Engineering. “Moreover, while process optimization is a crucial element for the success of any business in any industry, in aviation it ultimately comes down to human lives, which makes the planning and scheduling of an airline’s MRO vital for the health of its customers as well as its finances.”