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AUGUST 2021

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Airline MRO forever changed by pandemic

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August 1st 2021

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All sectors of the aviation industry have changed dramatically as a result of a global pandemic that has gone on far longer than anyone expected. Read More » The business of providing maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services, either by original equipment manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus or independent operators, is no exception. Lockdowns, travel restrictions and quarantine measures worldwide have played havoc with MRO operations, forcing them to innovate and fast. They have gone through a steep learning curve but it is one that will benefit them and their airline customers.

The pace of digitalization has been ramped up. MROs have discovered there are many processes that can be performed online and/or virtually. And while MROs will not reveal details of their financial dealings with customers, they have had to face a commercial landscape where customers have lost billions of dollars and are deep in debt from the pandemic.

MROs say they recognize the difficulties airlines are facing and are doing all they can to assist their customers. It is likely that probably has included allowing some of their customers to defer payments. Just as important, it has forced airlines into a more detailed assessment of their priorities - and decide what is necessary and what is not when it comes to maintenance of their fleets.

A good example of such adaption comes from MTU Maintenance Zhuhai. Because of the pandemic, a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector could not travel to China to conduct an audit on an overhauled engine. Instead, it was done online, an efficient and successful process that certainly saved money - and not least in time and travel costs.

To abate a concern that adopting virtual repair and maintenance practices might reduce aircraft and engine maintenance standards, MTU and its MRO peers stress that whatever they are doing on-line or virtually, the end result matches the high standards and product quality of pre-pandemic processes. Although it is a time of great upheaval, it is anticipated these changes in MRO processes will be a huge plus for carriers, whether in the Asia-Pacific or elsewhere. In theory, when the recovery takes hold, MRO advances in digitalization and a shift to online communications and virtual reality should bring cost efficiencies to the sector and, in turn, to airline costs. In other words, the cost efficiencies identified as a result of the pandemic will be completely integrated into the sector's standard operating practices.

TOM BALLANTYNE
Associate editor and chief correspondent
Orient Aviation Media Group

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