December 31, 2012
Paul Seidenman and David Spanovich San Francisco
Widebody airframe maintenance specialists should see steady demand for their services for at least the next three years, as increased heavy maintenance visits (HMV) somewhat offset a predicted decline in less intensive C check activity for the period.
“We are seeing a pick-up in spending on MRO for the older widebodies, which are now approaching a period of refurbishments and modifications, along with regularly scheduled maintenance,” says Wayne Plucker, aerospace industry manager for Frost & Sullivan. “For both the North American and European MROs, the MRO market will be focused on an aging widebody fleet.”
Unlike narrowbodies, MRO capacity could become an issue. “There isn't the excess capacity that you have with narrowbodies, especially for the 747s and A380s, so scheduling is going to become an issue. For the A330 and 777, MRO capacity is getting especially tight in the Asia-Pacific region,” he says.
Jonathan Berger, VP MRO Practice for ICF SH&E, believes the widebody MRO capacity shortage already exists. This “is giving leverage to the suppliers, in that the airlines have to reserve slots over a longer time horizon than in the past,” he says. “The widebody airframe MROs are running at about 90% capacity. Slots, which were readily available just a few years ago, are not, especially if you want to book a line of multiple aircraft.”
Berger thinks that Aveos's abrupt closure in Canada and American Airlines' decision to outsource its widebody aircraft absorbed a lot of formerly excess capacity.
Aviation Week Intelligence Network data indicate that widebody heavy maintenance providers are likely to see the highest demand for the Airbus A330 and Boeing 767 and 777 over the next three years. Those families represent the top largest widebody fleets in service, with about 900 777s operating, followed by the A330 with more than 800, and nearly 700 flying 767s. These aircraft hold the top three positions in terms of HMVs, with some variations in rank, by number of visits.
Looking at the entire in-service widebody fleet, the number of HMVs will average about 500 over each of the next three years.