GE Aviation has assessed the changing dynamics of the engine MRO market and sees excess capacity—at least for now.
“During 2012, fewer cycles were flown worldwide, than in 2011. That, and increased engine reliability and longer on-wing time, have impacted demand for MRO services at our facilities in the Americas, which help to support the worldwide fleet as part of our global network,” says GE Aviation Services Chief Marketing Officer Bill Dwyer. “The airlines are benefiting economically, but this has meant less demand for shop visits.”
While Dwyer cites the greater degree of reliability of the CFM56-5B and CFM56-7B compared with the earlier model CFM56-3 and CFM56-5A, GE's venerable CF6-80 also is remaining on-wing longer compared with earlier models. “For the CF6-80 family, there is nearly a 30% increase in time on wing, which has added unanticipated shop capacity.”
On the other hand, says Dwyer, GE is ramping up for the next generation of narrowbody and widebody aircraft engines, the LEAP and GEnx families. “We are in the process of selecting six to eight MRO partners to participate in GE Branded Service Agreements for the GEnx, and 10-12 for the LEAP. We now have two facilities supporting the GEnx—GE Durham [N.C.] in the U.S., and GE Celma in [Petropolis] Brazil.”
Latin America is developing into an airframe MRO center, particularly in Central America and Mexico. One of the biggest is San Salvador-based Aeroman, which specializes in 737 and Airbus A320 heavy checks. “We have about 120 annual heavy maintenance visits on the A320, and about 50 on the 737,” says CEO Ernesto Ruiz. “Just about all of our 737 work is on the Classic models, but we expect to book our first 737NG heavy check sometime this year.”
According to Ruiz, plans are moving forward to expand Aeroman's El Salvador operation. However, Aeroman is also studying expansion opportunities elsewhere in Latin America, he notes. That could mean a stand-alone, Aeroman-run facility, or joint venture with an established MRO.
Ruiz says capacity constraints are driving the plan. “Within the past few years, about 90% of our capacity has been typically booked,” he explains. “That's why any new capacity expansion we have under study will be to support the needs of our existing customers, who have already indicated that they want to give us more work.”
Nearly all of Aeroman's customers come from North and South America. Ruiz says that while the company's focus remains on narrowbodies, widebody work is a possibility down the road. “It will be at least five years before any decisions about that will be made,” he acknowledges.
Mexicana MRO Services, with hangars at its Mexico City headquarters and at Guadalajara, also could be expanding shortly in the direction of widebody maintenance, reports Jorge Jacome, senior vice president-engineering and maintenance.