The Maastricht plan was conceived six years ago by 20-25 companies that selected it as the best place to start, says Jaap Heukelom, senior project manager for business development and foreign investment at the Limburg Development and Investment Co. (LIOF), which directs the initiative. Its scale fits more with the small and medium-sized enterprise businesses that the Maastricht Maintenance Boulevard Foundation represents and markets at air shows. Because of its high efficiency, quality and low cost, the focus is regional aircraft and medium-size airlines, he says. Heukelom's goal is to double the number of MRO employees there to 1,000 in two years.
The presence of smaller companies at Maastricht has been beneficial to established companies, such as Samco. “For competencies that we don't have the volume on, I outsource right away, like welding and machine shops, complicated composites,” says Van Schaik. “That [enables you to] act quick on the demand in your hangar, instead of having your own capabilities and then there being a lot of costs when there is no work. [That's work that we previously sent] out of the country, so now I'm doing things closer by and focusing on it and working together.”
Van Schaik says the national initiative is “working well” in Maastricht, but others cite fundamental challenges to implementing the three-pronged strategy. “The majority of the work is in Amsterdam, and I think it will be for the future,” says Nayak Aircraft Services' managing director, Patrick Morcus. But, he adds, “there is connectivity between the Netherlands, and NAG is playing an important role.”
Even for companies not at one of the three target airports, the strategy could potentially boost business. Ruud Kleinendorst, managing director of NedAero Components, located in Zevenaar, near the Dutch-German border, says his business does not need to be situated at an airport. “With FedEx and UPS, components are brought to Zevenaar within slightly more than one hour from all these airports,” he says. “In a typical turnaround time of 14 weeks for component repair, this is no issue.” But Kleinendorst thinks the strategy will benefit the Netherlands as an MRO player, which will be good for his business.
“This specialization will lead to excellence centers for commercial aircraft, regional aircraft and military platforms,” he says. “In my opinion, this will increase the competitive position of the Netherlands as an aircraft MRO country.”
As for Woensdrecht, conceived of as a military center, civil work prospers there, too. Aircraft End-of-Life Services (AELS), an aircraft teardown and recycling company based in Delft, midway between Schiphol and Woensdrecht, has a facility there. “That's where we can fly airplanes to tear them down,” says General Manager Derk-Jan van Heerden. AELS added operations there in mid-2011 and has completed two projects at that location. Van Heerden says convincing customers to fly aircraft to Woensdrecht remains a challenge, but his business is seeing sustained growth.
Fokker Services' substantial sustainment base in the Netherlands includes not only its operations at Schiphol but also a maintenance base at Woensdrecht. “As we speak, we have [two concurrent] heavy-maintenance lines through Woensdrecht for Oceanair de Brazil,” says Somers. “They fly their Fokker 100s for six weeks to Woensdrecht, and we do the heavy checks, so the revenue we generate [in the Netherlands] comes from all over the place.”
For Fokker Technologies, the focus is on servicing its eponymous fleet while diversifying its capabilities. KLM still operates 26 Fokker 70s, but the Fokker fleet is concentrated in the Asia-Pacific region, says Somers. Fokker Services' new three-bay hangar in Singapore (where it services the burgeoning Australian Fokker fleet as well as ATR aircraft, for which it is an OEM-designated MRO) is humming at a rate of 50,000 man-hours annually. But its Woensdrecht civil-aircraft operation—resized during last year's lull and now seeing high-volume contracts come back, Somers says—will perform just over 200,000 man-hours this year. Its Fokker lines are booked through mid-2013 with Fokker 100s for Oceanair de Brazil and for Qantas subsidiary Network Aviation.
Somers's long-term focus is not on Fokker work, however. In addition to the Asia-Pacific ATRs, his company will perform roughly 50,000 man-hours on the Airbus A320, working closely with Dutch lessor Aercap. “It's an interesting shift of focus in Woensdrecht. and for the longer term. I think it's essential to have that capability,” Somers says.
Component MRO work is another area for cultivating new specialties, such as CFM56-5 independent drive generators (IDG). “We now have a current stream coming out of Snecma, so that's an area where we developed a capability that we had for the IDGs on the Fokker engines, the Rolls-Royces,” he says. “[The CFM56] is a high-volume engine, so that's definitely a growth area.”