“I've talked to Airbus. They're very interested in talking to us and looking at what we can do,” adds Fulgoni. “It all depends on what programs they start and the problems they have.”
Cardiff Aviation works on the Airbus 320 and Boeing's 737, 757 and 767 in addition to smaller regional aircraft. For now, its work is split roughly 50/50 between leasing companies and airlines, but Fulgoni sees smaller airlines as a promising source of business.
Dorset-based Marilake Aero specializes in instrument MRO and also has benefitted from work for smaller customers. An SME employing just 12 people, it has not suffered from the recession and still gets “plenty of work” from approximately 100 customers.
“Generally, a lot of the budget airlines do reasonably well, and that's where we get a lot of our work from,” says Gerry Griffiths, Marilake's managing director.
The skills shortage has proved to be one of his greatest challenges, a problem that is only set to grow in the coming decades.
“It is difficult to get engineers who've got instrument experience,” he adds. “In the past, we've hired people with electronic and some mechanical expertise and trained them on our equipment—that takes a year to 18 months,” says Griffiths.
According to Kakkad, “there's a real challenge in terms of getting skilled people for MRO.” The Royal Academy of Engineering estimates that Britain will need 80,000 new engineering graduates each year but is only producing about 20,000 annually.
The civil MRO sector, like other British engineering sectors, is facing a retirement peak of older workers. The industry has only 1,200 licensed engineers ages 20-30 and more than 3,500 over the age of 50, Kakkad says.
Spending money on training programs now is just one way of overcoming the skills shortage. “Even though it might seem as if cash is short, most companies realize that without skills programs, production will slow up,” he adds.