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cyclical because for many it’s a choice, not a necessity. If you want to get into a non-cyclical business, try supermarkets – people will always need to buy food. That doesn’t mean that aviation is not vital to world economies

Editor’s Notebook



Encourage efficiency - and young people

ll over the world the aviation business is beginning to recover. Civil aviation has always been

– it most certainly is. It’s just that the vital part suffers hugely when the so-called non-vital part takes a dive. However it’s all returning now and so therefore is the maintenance business. Many readers will be seeing this at MRO Americas in

Phoenix, Arizona. The state of the business will become clear over the next few days. The focus will naturally be North America, but Central and South America are likely to have an increasing influence over the next few years – companies south of the border are looking for work north of it and their competence is increasing all the time. Of the worlds civil turbine fleet (about 77,000 aircraft)

about half the fleet is in North America (some 37,000 aircraft). The latter fly about 38 million hours a year which is why the North American market is such a lucrative one. In addition the flying is often very intense. North America has always had a very positive attitude to

aviation, encouraging it much more than in other areas of the world. It’s to do with geography, population density, the economy and plain old positive mind set. The US in particular has great deal to teach the world in

terms of business and aviation mind set. The ‘can do’ attitude and ‘let’s get airborne’ approach are very strong which is why so many aviation innovations happen in the country. And that’s why the requirement for maintenance is so strong there. The business is broken into four segments – airframe,

engine, component MRO and line maintenance. Spending on these in the US is around $20 billion. Including general services the worldwide MRO business accounts for about $80 billion a year and nearly 50% occurs in the US ($39 billion). North America is an exporter of maintenance services

with a positive balance of some $2.4 billion a year. But in heavy maintenance its an importer. This is offset by trade surpluses of $1.4 billion in engine overhaul and $1.2 billion in component maintenance. So what are US companies doing to keep their market share

under the onslaught of foreign concerns which would have a piece of the action if possible? The answer is to increase efficiency, although that can take several forms and when one company goes in one direction, others can be doing the reverse. The same solution does not fit all situations. For example many US MROs are focusing as much as

possible on Lean and Six Sigma processes, trying to squeeze as much efficiency out of their organizations as possible. They

4 Aviation Maintenance | | April/May 2010

LHT successfully put an A380 in it’s new tail dock at Frankfurt Airport on April 8 witnessed by Aviation Maintenance.

>>> Full story in the next issue

are doing so not just because it’s good business but also in preparation for when the economy rebounds. Interestingly, some MROs are finding efficiency by outsourcing work while sticking to a core competency, but then there are others (American comes to mind) that is doing just the opposite; they’re bringing more work in-house, in part, to maintain their trained workforce. Both approaches apparently have merit. Judging what’s right for business under an

‘internationlizing’ situation is extremely difficult. It also puts the authorities under a lot of pressure because they may feel their role being stretched into market protection rather than the administration of safety for example. But the US has a formidable business base in aviation

maintenance. There are nearly 4,200 firms with more than 200,000 employees. About 85% are SMEs and there about 145,000 technicians about half of which are FAA certified. To keep this business base vibrant and competitive the

recruitment of young people is paramount. And that’s a tough problem. It’s easy to feel comfortable today, but their may be a big shortage not far down the road. Recent tough times means it’s an employer’s market and that could lead to a false sense of security. In war prepare for peace and in peace prepare for war. Employment is a complex issue in the minds of young

people and it’s not just do with remuneration, but also image, desire, what other sectors have to offer and quite simply how hard it is. It may seem to be extrapolating a statement a bit too far, but what’s needed on a very small scale is what President Kennedy said when announcing the Moon program – ‘we choose to do these things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.’ Statements of that kind might be pretty unfashionable at

the moment. Choosing to do something because it is tough needs to be brought back into fashion, although quite how that should be done is perhaps for a journal other than this. There will be many topics of conversation in Phoenix, but

let’s not forget this one – the appeal of the industry to young people and how we recruitment. Because if you have no employees, it’s very difficult to run a business. Even Japanese robotics technology might be stretched here.

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