Despite being taken out of production in the middle of the 90’s, the Fokker aircraft are still being operated by many airlines worldwide with more than 700 aircraft in the sky. Though the Dutch aircraft manufacturer went bankrupt more than 15 years ago, the company’s long-serving heritage still attracts contracts and agreements worth dozens of millions. Does it mean that in spite of the accelerating competition in the regional aircraft market the Fokker family still finds its niche in the industry?
The leading region to exploit the family aircraft is Asia with more than 300 airplanes. Whilst some Western air companies (such as airBaltic which in 2011 decided to replace its Fokker 50’s with the Bobmardier Q400 aircraft) have been gradually rearranging their fleet strategies, there are still many airlines, which, on the contrary, are expanding their Fokker line. One of them is the Australia’s Alliance Airlines which have acquired 7 additional Fokker 100 airplanes since 2010.
Table 1. Operating Fokker aircraft distribution as of 2011 Q2.
‘Fokkers are very popular among the airlines which largely operate short haul flights with moderate passenger loads. For that reason Fokker 27/50/100 are popular in both Europe and Asia. The latter, for that matter, maintains an exceptionally strong interest in the Fokker 28 airplanes. Though the Asian aviation market is constantly developing, smaller local airlines will always maintain the demand for the 50-100 capacity aircraft in order to transfer their passengers to the main regional hubs or between local destinations. Since few of the carriers can afford to acquire newer airplanes such as Bobmardier Q400, which is worth $25 million , the Fokker models are likely to remain a cheaper alternative for a while,’ commented the CEO of Locatory.com Zilvinas Sadauskas.
Being considerably cost-effective, the Fokker family is also well-known for its technical reliability. However, in order to ensure that the fleet is subject to regular high quality maintenance, it is crucial to have a full access to rotables, expendables and other spare parts. Whilst Europe and North America operate only approx. one third of the remaining Fokker aircraft, they account for more than 80% of the global Fokker MRO and Spare parts market.
Table 2. Fokker Spare Parts & MRO providers’ distribution
Since European carriers have a considerable range of Fokker spare parts and MRO service providers across the region and due to the intense short haul route map within Europe, many local airlines hesitate to fully withdraw the reliable aircraft type. Even airBaltic has reconsidered its plans and has decided to keep the Fokker 50 fleet for the sub-regional destinations. Austrian Airlines has recently signed a 130 Million Euro worth Take care Agreement with Fokker Services which will service the carrier’s 24 Fokker airplanes till 2020.
But from the point of view of the operators in other regions, the situation in the global spare parts market might seem excessively disproportional, since the Asian, African and Latin American airlines which operate Fokker aircraft have limited number of spare parts’ providers. But considering that KLM Cityhopper and Air Astana are to write off their Fokker aircraft (50 and 100) and Mexicana Click, once one of the major Fokker operators, is on the verge of bankruptcy, it may be expected that some of the discarded airplanes will be dismantled thus supplementing the global Fokker spare parts market.
‘If every aircraft operator gains access to the global market, the disproportion will significantly decrease. Airlines will not only have guaranteed availability of spare parts, but may also promote regional supply chains. In order to achieve that, air companies should open themselves to modern technologies, for example, the Internet-based platforms. They may help the airlines from the emerging aviation markets to optimize the maintenance of their aging fleet. Such online platforms like Locatory.com directly bring together aircraft operators with spare parts suppliers and the OEMs. But what is more important, these projects contribute the preservation of such values as the Fokker heritage’, concluded Zilvinas Sadauskas.