U.K. MROs Face Challenges But Have Prospects

By Matthew Bell
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

“We're getting very small SMEs, if you like, under the wing of large companies, and benefitting from that relationship,” he adds.

Local MRO provider Cardiff Aviation was established last year and aims to be a one-stop shop for airlines and leasing companies operating narrowbody passenger aircraft.

Cardiff Aviation operates in 132,000 sq. ft. of hangar and workshop space at the former Royal Air Force maintenance base in St. Athan and can hold 20 narrowbody airliners at one time.

It was co-founded by Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer for rock band Iron Maiden, and Mario Fulgoni, who hopes the company will transcend the “rather specialist” nature of most British civil MROs by offering the full range of maintenance, training for engineers and pilots, and even initial flights for startup airlines.

British MRO companies previously suffered due to the relative strength of the pound against the U.S. dollar, the chief currency used for industry pricing, while the recession has forced them to improve in the face of growing regional competition, Fulgoni says.

“The U.K. has become more competitive over the last few years. Sterling was previously strong against the dollar; now it's relatively weak, which means that our rates are beginning to look pretty good. Against the euro, the U.K. is doing OK as well,” Fulgoni says.

He notes that MRO providers in the U.K. are “competing against East Europeans—their labor costs are lower and they're much more willing to do work. A lot of the workforce in the U.K. are beginning to realize that the pre-2008 gravy train has gone away and that we need to be more productive now if we're going to win business from Europe.”

He has ambitions to win business in northern Europe, Scandinavia and as far as North Africa, but “if you go beyond that range, it really doesn't pay to ferry the aircraft,” he says.

Fulgoni sees partnership with OEMs as another opportunity rather than a threat. “I would like to be an approved supplier to both Airbus and Boeing to provide them with OEM support to their customers. They can produce regular work and it tends to be higher-margin,” he says.

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