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Special Report: MRO Asia-Pacific update

Fokker MRO forecasts full recovery from COVID-19 “years away”

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August 1st 2021

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Leading regional aircraft MRO managing director, Franck Scherer, told Orient Aviation “it remains difficult to predict a time frame for recovery from the pandemic because it is very dynamic. Read More » “Recovery is not only different in each region, but per segment in our industry. We are seeing big differences in these areas’’, the Fokker Services Asia boss said.

“The recent spike of the Delta variant across Southeast Asia and Australia, combined with a low rate of vaccinations, suggests the region will not return to pre-COVID volumes anytime soon. We are following all scenarios, but expect full recovery will be years away as also predicted by many consultants to our markets. Nevertheless, being well positioned in the regional aircraft market means we will be at the front of the MRO pack as domestic flights across the region slowly grow again,” he said.

In enduring the pain of the pandemic, Scherer said Fokker Services Asia staff had embraced the safety measures created by local authorities. “These measures were tight and extremely important in creating a working environment that was as safe as possible. Since March 2020, all staff in our hangar and on the operations side wore facemasks, took temperature checks and maintained safe social distance whenever possible,” he said.

“Many support functions worked from home and like so many organizations around the world, we learnt to collaborate efficiently without seeing each other in person. This experience highlighted just how adaptable our teams are. When you perform heavy maintenance or repair management, handling sudden and unpredictable changes is part of the job.

“On the business side, like many others, we faced some low volume months in 2020. We responded by turning the situation into an opportunity to improve our processes. Now volume for the regional aircraft market has been growing again, we are seeing the full benefits of the improvements we made. We foresee more projects in 2022 with regional operators with pandemic amplified turnover of ATR leased aircraft.

Under its new owner, Panta Holdings, the regional aircraft MRO “has brought existing services much closer to our facilities in Singapore”, said Scherer. COVID-19 created a boom in goods transport but “the whole supply chain and cargo capacity is suffering with long lead times and higher costs, especially from Europe and the U.S. Therefore, we relocated many parts from our warehouse in the Netherlands to our inventory in Singapore. By doing this, we can serve our Asia-Pacific customers faster and bring this speed to specific long lead time repair capabilities with our local workshop. The pandemic has convinced many customers that local inventory and support is the best risk mitigation plan when it comes to supporting aircraft fleet’’, said Scherer.

“We have introduced our modification suite to operators and lessors – especially mandatory modifications during lease return/swaps. We see many aircraft being returned to lessors that need to be upgraded to the correct lease return condition. We understand the reduction in flight hours, so we are providing customers with flexible options on our nose-to-tail programs. Lastly, we are working with airlines on storing aircraft and their components in the best possible condition while temporarily parked.”

Like all MROs, the pandemic has triggered fully digitizing our business. “With our digital communication and collaborative tools and new IT network, we are about to switch all processes to a digital format, including check preparation, audits and the final digital signature approved by airworthiness authorities,” said Scherer.

“There is no doubt this deep digital transformation will continue to spread across the commercial aviation industry from operators to airports, passengers and OEMs. Other fundamental changes are hard to predict. They will be different in each continent. We see improvement in the regional market far outweighing, for instance, the wide-body market. The long-term outlook is unclear, but we are keeping a close eye on developments and will continue to be flexible.”

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