According to the latest IATA forecast, the demand for air travel will keep growing at the rate of 5-6% a year. This is certainly good news for the entire industry, including aircraft manufacturers and carriers. However, an increasing workload for airlines naturally means more take-offs and landings and, in turn, more pressure on the MRO providers servicing the landing gear of the growing number of aircraft. In Europe alone this market segment is estimated to be worth approximately $800 million in 2013 with the growth rate of up to 4% per year.
A landing gear, including wheels and tires, takes the brunt of all landings. Bringing a Boeing B747-400 to a stop requires the brakes to absorb enormous amounts of heat, as its maximum take-off weight can reach almost 395.000 kg. As a result, this part of an aircraft is among the ones to undergo the most inspections and is a steady source of business for MRO providers. The global landing gear maintenance market saw a growth of 130% from 2008 to 2013 and is estimated to reach $1,11B by 2022.
“Certainly, life is hard for an aircraft landing gear, as it supports the entire weight of an aircraft duringlanding and ground operations. Moreover, additional wear or damage can result from extended taxiing, short field or hard landings and exposure to extreme operational conditions and elements. However, with proper control and maintenance, it is able to withstand these stresses and perform to a desired standard,” comments Deividas Jurkstas, the Head of FL Technics Component Management Department. “A technician should inspect the landing gear including its wheels, tires, and brakes whenever possible: any missing bolt is grounds for removal.”
Currently North America and Europe account for up to 62% of the landing gear MRO market. However, in recent times the demand in the region has been on the decline. The trend could be partly attributed to the extended overhaul cycles as well as the introduction of modern landing gears. These are nowadays commonly designed to last for the life of the aircraft or an average of 80.000 flight hours. Nevertheless, the rapidly growing emerging markets outweigh the decreasing demand in the US and the Old Continent. Moreover, commercial jets ordered in 2004 and 2005 are entering the stage when they begin to require gear removal and overhaul. Therefore, the landing gear MRO segment seems to be heading towards an especially intense period. According to AWIN, during the next few years the landing gear MRO specialists will have to carry out almost 4,100 nose gear and more than 4,000 shipsets of the main landing gear works for that fleet. Airbus A320-200, Boeing 737-800 and Bombardier CRJ100/200/400 are the top three aircraft in need of the procedure.
In the meantime, although it may seem that such a busy segment has a place for everyone, the competition here is as high as ever. Landing Gear MRO is one of a few component MRO segments characteristic of a high proportion of labour in the cost structure (up to 67% of overall maintenance cost). It means that landing gear overhaul is the most profitable to the service providers which maintain direct contact with their customers and have in-house repair capabilities. This is why, for the last decade OEMs have been putting a lot of efforts into entering the market (currently they account for almost 40% of it), as they see the landing gear overhaul sector as an opportunity to get back a portion of their investments in the development and manufacturing of gears and components.
“Although competition is always productive, the growing presence of OEMs in the market could be perceived as a negative trend as it poses the difficulties related to obtaining instructions for continued airworthiness and the use of non-OEM as well as PMA parts under OEM warranties,” says Deividas Jurkstas, the Head of FL Technics Component Management Department. “However, the vast majority of current overhauls are still being performed by non-OEM providers, who can offer a wider product range, as well as strict and innovative focus on developing new and smart repair schemes to salvage parts. In any case, considering the upcoming demand, it does seem that during the next few years all of the players will have an opportunity to have a bite of the landing gear MRO pie,” says D. Jurkstas.