While most aircraft are grounded with high uncertainty as to when regular flight patterns will resume, what can an airline MRO organization do? This unique situation presents some challenges, but also offers significant opportunities.
Under normal operations, the MRO organization of an airline usually struggles to keep up with the various schedules, tasks and defects while the aircraft are constantly in the air. In total contrast, the aircraft now sit idle on the ground waiting for the day they will return to service, opening up the opportunity to refine MRO tactics and the overall MRO strategy.
MRO organizations can address the ongoing crisis on three fronts:
1) Execute immediate actions for survival: halt the drain of cash through a number of tactical steps
2) Use available resources and ground time productively: perform minimum inspections, revisit inventory management, refine aircraft check schedules and optimize systems and processes in preparation for the restart
3) Initiate forward looking activities to plan for the future: pivot to a more financially sustainable future by reworking supplier contracts, streamlining the organization and decision processes and exploring new business opportunities
Although the duration of the COVID-19 crisis cannot yet be estimated (while scenarios can be developed), these reflect some - but not all - of the productive ways to make use of the unprecedented window of having the majority of the fleet on the ground with staff motivated to keep working on aircraft and in the MRO organization.
It should be noted that the relevance, applicability and ability to execute these actions would vary widely by airline or entity. Each MRO organization would need to develop a tailored action and financial plan as it seeks to navigate the crisis and emerge stronger, leaner and smarter.
The author, Dr. Axel Schauenburg, is Associate Partner at Lufthansa Consulting and Head of Solution Group Maintenance and Engineering.
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