The North American and European markets are large, but flat. Messier just started overhauling landing gear on Delta Air Lines' A330s.
Overall, Messier overhauls 40-50% of Airbus landing gear and a significantly lesser share of Boeing gear.
The company competes with some airline overhaul capacity, mainly Lufthansa Technik, but also Ameco Beijing and Gameco in China, TAM's A320 shops in Latin America and Madrid Aerospace, an Iberia joint venture with ST Aerospace. “American Airlines is getting out of landing-gear overhaul. “Actually, most airlines are,” Doherty observes.
Old models like 737 Classics offer only a small and commodity-like market. “There are so many parked you can take one off and fly it for a few years,” Doherty says. “And the market is very competitive because there are so many providers.”
Overhaul shop capacity is plentiful for all models, and the critical restraint on capacity is thus spare landing gear. This sometimes requires adjusting the timing of landing-gear overhaul, which average 10 years for old models and 12 years for new ones.
Michael Secord, general manager of the landing-gear aftermarket for UT Aerospace Systems, says UTAS overhauls three kinds of gear: the complete line of Boeings from 737 Classics to 777s; military gear; and gear on Bombardier CRJ700s and 900s and Dash-8-Q400s. All these are products that UTAS or its predecessor company, Goodrich, manufactured.
Secord says demand for overhauls of landing gear on Bombardier regional aircraft, -700s, -900s and –Q400s, is quite high now as the models are in the middle of their 10-year, time-between-overall period. Goodrich is actively talking to most operators of these aircraft to help them through their overhaul cycles.
For gear on Boeings, Secord says there is an overhaul lull now, because there was a pause in deliveries 10 years ago, after the 9/11 attacks. However, he predicts demand in this segment will pick up in the next 3-4 years, driven by the renewal in deliveries in 2004-05. “Then, on top of that, older Boeing aircraft will come in for their second overhauls. The overall demand could double in the next three to four years,” says Secord.
In the past, some of the largest carriers invested in facilities to conduct landing-gear overhauls in-house. But this means major investment in plating and tanks and, now, the new high-velocity oxy-fuel thermal-spray technology that is replacing chrome in new models. Secord says even some larger airlines are considering exiting landing-gear overhaul business and he expects outsourcing to grow.
When outsourcing landing-gear overhauls, carriers typically look at their whole fleet and seek long-term deals of 4-5 years. UTAS has about 80% of the market for landing gear on Bombardier aircraft, but a lower share of the Boeing market, due to more competition in this segment.