Asia-Pacific airline MRO industry on cusp of recovery
Aviation’s MRO industry has found new ways of doing business after their airline customers evaporated within weeks of the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020. Now, as the world learns to live with the virus and its subsequent variants, MROs in the Asia-Pacific are resetting for growth.
When Singapore-based Boeing Asia-Pacific Aviation Services (BAPAS), a services joint venture between the U.S. OEM and SIA Engineering (SIAEC), announced it would cease operations, it confirmed to the MRO market that the pandemic has had a profound impact on the aviation aftermarket. Read More »
BAPAS, 51% owned by Boeing and 49% by SIAEC, launched full operations as recently as 2018, providing fleet management services including engineering, maintenance planning and scheduling, as well as operational control centre services, materials demand planning and spares support for B737s, B747s, B777s and B787s.
Signs of problems emerged in August 2020 when BAPAS announced it was shedding about 13% of its Singapore workforce due to the continuing impact of the pandemic. It added it was “facing significant financial challenges” owing to the collapse in air travel demand. The partners have not released detailed reasons for the venture’s closure except to acknowledge a “changing business environment” and that the closure was by “mutual agreement”.
“This is not a decision we made lightly. We are committed to minimizing the impact on our affected employees and customers,” Boeing said in a statement. “Boeing remains committed to Singapore through its people, products, capabilities and investments in the country.”
There have been no more headline closures of MRO services in the region, but the sector has had to adjust revenue downwards after airlines grounded hundreds of aircraft due to the pandemic and decided to permanently retire hundreds of older less fuel efficient airplanes. MRO providers also have had to restructure contracts to support customers financially stressed from the breadth and time span of the COVID crisis.
Pre-pandemic, the Asia-Pacific was the fastest growing aviation market in the world. As a consequence, it attracted global MRO companies keen to expand their customer bases across the region – until the pandemic brought their growth trajectories to a screeching halt.
Within months airlines were retiring some older aircraft types in their fleets. New airplane deliveries were postponed as operations were scaled down in 2020 and into 2021 although some airlines opted for major MRO during this period.
A recent report by Market Research said Asia and the Indo-Pacific nations were “highly affected” by the COVID-19 outbreak and that the policies of Japan and some other countries in the region were critical factors restraining the growth of the region’s aircraft MRO market.
Nevertheless, it is expected recovery in the sector will be faster than other regions as Asia-Pacific countries will open more airports in the coming decade and governments, including China, have taken various initiatives to reduce losses in their aviation industries.
It is forecast the Asia-Pacific aircraft MRO market will grow from US$15.61 billion in 2021 to $23.07 billion by 2028, an annual growth rate of 5.7%. New technology and digitalization will play leading roles in transforming operations and lifting the productivity of aviation MROs.
“Advanced technologies such as Block chain improve processes in MRO organizations. The technology has massive potential in the MRO space,” said the Market Research report.
So far, airline MRO adoption of Block chain technology has been limited. Among its advantages are that it helps companies record the configuration details of MRO components, making the documentation process across component manufacturers and MRO service providers effortless.
Additionally, the technology enables MRO service providers to offer verifiable documentation about the parts they have installed, maintaining transparency in their operations. Aircraft manufacturers, aircraft MRO service providers and aviation technology developers are advocating Block chain technology to track MRO processes. “This is offering a prominent part of the future Asia-Pacific aircraft MRO market and is anticipated to stimulate the market in coming years,” the report said.
As a result of a recovery in the sector, industry analysts forecast demand will increase for aviation maintenance technicians and engineers. An example is AAR Corporation, a leading U.S.-based provider of aviation services to commercial airlines, MROs and OEMs. It has launched Fellowship Programs with Vincennes University and Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM) in Indianapolis. Students selected as AAR Fellows receive scholarships to pursue Airframe and Powerplant programs while working at an AAR MRO facility. After graduation, Fellows in good standing are guaranteed employment with AAR.
“The need for aviation maintenance technicians is as critical as the shortage of pilots and continues to grow,” AAR’s Vice President, Repair and Engineering, Brian Sartain, said.
|Aviation MRO industry gathering returns “in person” to Singapore
Forecasts for airline MRO recovery across the region will be a centre piece of the dialogue and presentations at Aviation Week Network’s MRO Asia-Pacific exhibition, being held at Singapore’s convention and exhibition centre from September 20-22. It will be the first “in person” gathering of the company’s MRO Asia-Pacific exhibition and conference since 2019, held in conjunction with Aero-Engines Asia-Pacific. It is the region’s largest aviation MRO event, bringing together the most influential members of the industry to discuss the issues and concerns of operators and their service providers and suppliers.
The combined events are expected to draw 4,000 registered attendees from 60 countries, including hundreds of decision-makers from airlines, lessors and MROs. “We anticipate a record attendance in Singapore based on pent-up demand for in-person networking and the great success of our other recent live events,” Aviation Week Network senior vice president events, Lydia Janow, said.