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lightsaber
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Aircraft maintenance getting cheaper

Sun Nov 11, 2018 3:42 pm

I found this fascinating:
The company expects the operating environment to remain "challenging" due to longer maintenance intervals and lighter work content arising from new generation aircraft,
The link is the news article (which will expire soon) at: https://centreforaviation.com/

The PR which doesn't mention the reduction in revenue:
https://www.avitrader.com/2018/11/08/si ... y-2018-19/

In aerospace engineering we are always trying to extend maintenance intervals. For widebodies, there is a push to get to a 12 year heavy maintenance cycle (up from the old 6 to 7 year) with reduced cost shop visits (better design for maintenance). We are starting to see the results of that at the MRO shops. IMHO, despite a huge increase in flying, maintenance revenue is getting challenging as the old maintenance hogs (I'm looking at you 747 & MD-80) are fading away.

Predictive maintenance means instead of a problem resulting in a very expensive shop visit, the sensors find an issue (e.g., actuator seal has failed) prior to the part eating itself apart. A $150 seal kit + $300 of labor is a lot cheaper than a new $5k actuator with a new $2k linkage (failing actuators usually beat up the linkage to the point they must be replaced early). Or... when linkage bearings go bad, the actuator reports it needs more force and someone finds a bearing to replace ($50 + $150 labor) instead of $2k. I pulled numbers from parts I have experience with. :) Sorry, no links, so take it as my opinion. :P

The A350 and 787 take widebody maintenance to the next level. In particular electric subsystems (in the A220 also). We've gone from those being "new and more likely to break" to less expensive to maintain.

As much as I like the history of some planes, this is analogous (to a lesser degree) to the transition from piston engines. I have friends who, prior to becoming degreed engineers, were mechanics on piston engines (why yes, they are at the end of their careers...) and the stories they have are scary. It isn't just maintenance hours, it is needed 2 hours to re-time those old radials as passengers waited. So pistons left the fleet quick due to maintenance and I wonder how much the new predictive maintenance will accelerate the transition. (e.g., Allegiant is pushing the CEO predictive maintenance to the point it accelerated the MD-80 retirement decision. Ok, one factor amoung many... But still a factor.).

My :twocents: for the aircraft where better predictive maintenance can be bought (A320, A330, 777, 737), I see airlines upgrading avionics & actuators to take advantage (although it wouldn't surprise me if the actuators with the diagnostic chips in them are only put in when the old actuator has to be pulled). Some can be retrofitted too... Avionics aren't cheap, but since new capabilities are needed anyway for navigation, airlines might as well buy the predictive maintenance (payoff for a low utilization like Allegiant is < 3 years,;high utilization airlines, by avoiding down time can pay off in 15 months or so).

Lightsaber
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Newbiepilot
Posts: 3639
Joined: Tue Aug 30, 2016 10:18 pm

Re: Aircraft maintenance getting cheaper

Sun Nov 11, 2018 3:52 pm

100% agree that maintenance is getting cheaper. Planes are more reliable and also predict what is going to fail.

I’m surprised the conversation is mostly about A350s and 787s. Those planes are great for troubleshooting, but still don’t have the highest dispatch reliability. The planes that are by far the most reliable are 737s and A320s.
 
7673mech
Posts: 522
Joined: Tue Mar 30, 2004 10:10 am

Re: Aircraft maintenance getting cheaper

Sun Nov 11, 2018 4:07 pm

Cheaper? Labor rates at MRO's haven't changed in 15 years.
I agree that widebody maintenance will get cheaper in the future when the predictive systems become more mature and maintenance cycles are extended. As they are today - they often still need old school human thinking troubleshooting.
Narrowbodies - so long as they are utilized as they currently are - with limited ground time, it will always be faster and cheaper to replace an actuator in lieu of a seal. You have to remove the actuator to replace the seal - at that point you change the actuator and put the airplane back in the air.
 
mjoelnir
Posts: 8426
Joined: Sun Feb 03, 2013 11:06 pm

Re: Aircraft maintenance getting cheaper

Sun Nov 11, 2018 4:44 pm

Newbiepilot wrote:
100% agree that maintenance is getting cheaper. Planes are more reliable and also predict what is going to fail.

I’m surprised the conversation is mostly about A350s and 787s. Those planes are great for troubleshooting, but still don’t have the highest dispatch reliability. The planes that are by far the most reliable are 737s and A320s.


Reliability and maintenace cost are not inherently interconnected. You could have a frame with high maintance cost and high realibility and a frame with low maintanace cost and high reliability and so on. The maintenace of a newer A320 is lower than on an older one, not only because of age, but also there due to increasing of intervals of neccessary service with the same or higher reliability. Failure predictions are getting better. I assume that applies also to the 737.
There is expected a lower maintenace cost for a A330neo compared to an older (not the latest production version) A330ceo.
 
Waterbomber
Posts: 849
Joined: Sat Jul 09, 2016 11:51 am

Re: Aircraft maintenance getting cheaper

Sun Nov 11, 2018 4:45 pm

I strongly disagree.
Maintenance is becoming more expensive by the day.
It's a bit unfair to compare tired 30 year old B747's to brand new A350/B787.
When they age, the A350/B787 fleets will have their fair share of issues.

Maintenance intervals are increasing thanks to improved systems and design owed to past experience, MSG programs and such.
However, increased maintenance intervals do not necessarily translate into lower operating costs.
In fact, OEM's are very eager to use the increased maintenance intervals as a reason to sell aircraft and parts at a higher cost.

Also, when you look at the downtime that the latest generations of aircraft are displaying at EIS or a few years thereafter, the longer maintenance intervals on legacy systems are eclipsed by major teething issues.

Labor cost in maintenance is increasing. The MRO's in China and Eastern Europe are charging more every day.

Maintenace quality is decreasing. The competition for base maintenance contracts is globalising and becoming so fierce that winning bidders especially in developping countries resort to "paper maintenance" and are not carrying out the required inspections, resulting in decreased detection rate and higher costs further down the line. This is what the MRO's mean when they are talking about increased competition and reducing margins.
The other reason for decreased maintenance quality is the global digitalisation of the young generations and development of the services industries resulting in a reduced availability of qualified technical know-how.

Finally, sensors and detection systems are great toys to have. However, they are not free and they add a lot of complexity. In fact, faulty sensors are a major issue in itself.
Electronic detection has its limitations too.
MSG is a far more effective tool for preventive maintenance.

I would like to add that maintenance error is a major cost factor for all airline maintenance operations.
Most major maintenance on non-consumable parts is preventable by proper maintena ce. However, improper maintenance is causing unnecessary issues. Errors committed under commercial pressure and due to poor workmanship, lack of experience, bad culture and poor procedures are increasing costs for the industry.
Digitalisation of paperwork, simplification and integration of maintenance procedures, instructions, manuals; simplification of reporting, ease of access to systems through proper thought-through design, realtime coordination with other departments such as engineering and logistics can reduce maintenance error while also decreasing manpower requirements and downtime.
These are what is needed to reduce maintenance costs, and not more onboard electronics.
 
lavalampluva
Posts: 1377
Joined: Tue Jun 24, 2014 7:33 pm

Re: Aircraft maintenance getting cheaper

Sun Nov 11, 2018 6:09 pm

A lot of the heavier maintenance (d checks) on US aircraft are being sent out of the country. Singapore, China, Costa Rica... Labor is cheap, but is quality up to snuff?
Remind me to send a thank you note to Mr. Boeing.
 
smartplane
Posts: 1024
Joined: Fri Aug 03, 2018 9:23 pm

Re: Aircraft maintenance getting cheaper

Sun Nov 11, 2018 6:11 pm

Waterbomber wrote:
I strongly disagree.
Maintenance is becoming more expensive by the day.
It's a bit unfair to compare tired 30 year old B747's to brand new A350/B787.
When they age, the A350/B787 fleets will have their fair share of issues.

Maintenance intervals are increasing thanks to improved systems and design owed to past experience, MSG programs and such.
However, increased maintenance intervals do not necessarily translate into lower operating costs.
In fact, OEM's are very eager to use the increased maintenance intervals as a reason to sell aircraft and parts at a higher cost.

Also, when you look at the downtime that the latest generations of aircraft are displaying at EIS or a few years thereafter, the longer maintenance intervals on legacy systems are eclipsed by major teething issues.

Labor cost in maintenance is increasing. The MRO's in China and Eastern Europe are charging more every day.

Maintenace quality is decreasing. The competition for base maintenance contracts is globalising and becoming so fierce that winning bidders especially in developping countries resort to "paper maintenance" and are not carrying out the required inspections, resulting in decreased detection rate and higher costs further down the line. This is what the MRO's mean when they are talking about increased competition and reducing margins.
The other reason for decreased maintenance quality is the global digitalisation of the young generations and development of the services industries resulting in a reduced availability of qualified technical know-how.

Finally, sensors and detection systems are great toys to have. However, they are not free and they add a lot of complexity. In fact, faulty sensors are a major issue in itself.
Electronic detection has its limitations too.
MSG is a far more effective tool for preventive maintenance.

I would like to add that maintenance error is a major cost factor for all airline maintenance operations.
Most major maintenance on non-consumable parts is preventable by proper maintena ce. However, improper maintenance is causing unnecessary issues. Errors committed under commercial pressure and due to poor workmanship, lack of experience, bad culture and poor procedures are increasing costs for the industry.
Digitalisation of paperwork, simplification and integration of maintenance procedures, instructions, manuals; simplification of reporting, ease of access to systems through proper thought-through design, realtime coordination with other departments such as engineering and logistics can reduce maintenance error while also decreasing manpower requirements and downtime.
These are what is needed to reduce maintenance costs, and not more onboard electronics.

Hourly charges are increasing, especially software related, yet annual cost of maintenance is decreasing.

Part of the decrease, reflects the change in ownership. As more aircraft are leased or financed, the terms of trade are insistence on maintenance contracts (the costs of these are usually included), emphasis on predictive / preventative maintenance, and reported / documented service and performance.

Also, costs are reported differently financially, switched from repairs and maintenance (or similar), to lease (bundled with maintenance), extended warranties, etc.

Average age of the commercial aviation fleet, when weighted by age / hours / cycles has never been lower. There will never be 30 year old 787's and A350's to maintain in commercial operation.
 
0newair0
Posts: 357
Joined: Fri Jun 01, 2007 12:21 am

Re: Aircraft maintenance getting cheaper

Mon Nov 12, 2018 12:16 am

lavalampluva wrote:
A lot of the heavier maintenance (d checks) on US aircraft are being sent out of the country. Singapore, China, Costa Rica... Labor is cheap, but is quality up to snuff?


Yes, the quality is just as good, if not better, than the US. I was personally involved in a conversation where a maintenance executive for a large US airline said that they would continue sending their maintenance abroad (we were talking about a particular facility at the time) even if the maintenance could be done in the US for less becuase they believe that facility offers superior value over what is available in the US.
That's not how this works! That's not how any of this works!
 
Lufthansa
Posts: 2583
Joined: Thu May 20, 1999 6:04 am

Re: Aircraft maintenance getting cheaper

Mon Nov 12, 2018 12:33 am

Id also question the intellectual rights as part of this. PW has been making CFM parts for years now after patients expire. Also LH has a maintenance base in both the Phillipines and Malta. Theres lots of new options. Combine that with better systems.... particularly ones that have sensors now to give the heads up.... yes I can easily see a reduction overall. But isn't that the exact point of a new model? Cheaper to operate?
 
Newbiepilot
Posts: 3639
Joined: Tue Aug 30, 2016 10:18 pm

Re: Aircraft maintenance getting cheaper

Mon Nov 12, 2018 12:49 am

mjoelnir wrote:
Reliability and maintenace cost are not inherently interconnected. You could have a frame with high maintance cost and high realibility and a frame with low maintanace cost and high reliability and so on. The maintenace of a newer A320 is lower than on an older one, not only because of age, but also there due to increasing of intervals of neccessary service with the same or higher reliability. Failure predictions are getting better. I assume that applies also to the 737.


The basis of a reliability based maintenance program is that reliability goes up when more is invested in maintenance so yes reliability and maintenance costs are interconnected. Additional maintenance inspections, component soft times, more intensive overhaul component overhaul, extended ground times to allow more maintenance touch time, higher part inventory, etc all tend to increase dispatch reliability. 737s and A320s need far less of those type of programs to maintain high dispatch reliability. Airplanes like 757s, 767s, A300s, MD11s, MD80s, etc all require more investment in those type of reliability efforts than the A320 or 737.

One are where maintenance cost has been going up is engines. The higher pressure ratio engines are requiring more extensive overhauls. In that case I agree with you
 
Apprentice
Posts: 777
Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2013 12:51 pm

Re: Aircraft maintenance getting cheaper

Sat Nov 17, 2018 12:09 pm

Two recent experience about discrepancies during Checks, were erased. I was not even questioned or asked about details etc. Some big company was involved.
Rgds
“An4; IL18; IL6; Tu5; D10; MD11; MD83; B32; B34: B37; B744; B748; B752; B763; B772; B773; B77W; A320; A332; A333; A342; A343.
"A NO" is a positive answer., "DON'T KNOW" is not. My Tutor (a wise man)
“CUBANA” 90 years Flying”
 
Apprentice
Posts: 777
Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2013 12:51 pm

Re: Aircraft maintenance getting cheaper

Sat Nov 17, 2018 12:20 pm

lavalampluva wrote:
A lot of the heavier maintenance (d checks) on US aircraft are being sent out of the country. Singapore, China, Costa Rica... Labor is cheap, but is quality up to snuff?


And that is the point. Explanation is that workforce cost 1/3, but been there, it is not all the stuff.
They are waiting your plane and prioritized it. Plane took delays in waiting parts or even Not expandable items,
communications with MOC will not work, as people “there” do not feel like have to “help” people “here”. And...

Rgds
“An4; IL18; IL6; Tu5; D10; MD11; MD83; B32; B34: B37; B744; B748; B752; B763; B772; B773; B77W; A320; A332; A333; A342; A343.
"A NO" is a positive answer., "DON'T KNOW" is not. My Tutor (a wise man)
“CUBANA” 90 years Flying”
 
Apprentice
Posts: 777
Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2013 12:51 pm

Re: Aircraft maintenance getting cheaper

Mon Nov 19, 2018 6:54 am

Hi: A long time ago, when I started (1984). Mx Supervisor on duty will go to any departure and arrival. After a debriefing with Flying Crew, he gave to the Mx Crew, precise instructions of what He want to be performed. (Following AMM, FIM..), and Many times, He stayed, till a/c was airworthiness again.
Supervisor of course, back them , were human, but human with a big experience in the trade.
Nowadays, this Higly experience, supervisor or even leads, coming to any departure/arrival, is deemed to costly, and as $ is the new King in Town......
So again, not about Supervisor the problem is that, on Mx as everywhere in the industry, decisions are made by cost, and not effectivity or air
worthiness
“An4; IL18; IL6; Tu5; D10; MD11; MD83; B32; B34: B37; B744; B748; B752; B763; B772; B773; B77W; A320; A332; A333; A342; A343.
"A NO" is a positive answer., "DON'T KNOW" is not. My Tutor (a wise man)
“CUBANA” 90 years Flying”
 
User avatar
Horstroad
Posts: 494
Joined: Thu Apr 08, 2010 8:19 pm

Re: Aircraft maintenance getting cheaper

Mon Nov 19, 2018 1:08 pm

0newair0 wrote:
lavalampluva wrote:
A lot of the heavier maintenance (d checks) on US aircraft are being sent out of the country. Singapore, China, Costa Rica... Labor is cheap, but is quality up to snuff?


Yes, the quality is just as good, if not better, than the US.

I don't know anything about the quality in the US... or what contractors you have abroad... but when we get an aircraft back after a heavy C check (we don't have D checks) in China or Brazil or wherever, it is not uncommon for the plane to sit around for another week or so in our hangar back home, to fix what they sent us. If it even arrives. We've also had them AOG after just one leg.
But it's cheap and reworking is a warranty issue... so the company keeps sending the aircraft there.

They did get better over the years. But with the experience they gain, they demand higher prices.
 
Apprentice
Posts: 777
Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2013 12:51 pm

Re: Aircraft maintenance getting cheaper

Mon Nov 19, 2018 4:35 pm

lavalampluva wrote:
A lot of the heavier maintenance (d checks) on US aircraft are being sent out of the country. Singapore, China, Costa Rica... Labor is cheap, but is quality up to snuff?



Hi: Recently, I was with a/c on Sud America, for a C2 Check.
IMHO, quality is high, to the same level than on the states, but, decision making is not well defined.
MCC will not consider this technician as their responsibilities, don’t want to be involved in an technical answer to them.

When a part necesity arise, must of them had to be bought from states..

At the end, it’s not so short time and qty depends on What was stablished between companies.

Rgds
“An4; IL18; IL6; Tu5; D10; MD11; MD83; B32; B34: B37; B744; B748; B752; B763; B772; B773; B77W; A320; A332; A333; A342; A343.
"A NO" is a positive answer., "DON'T KNOW" is not. My Tutor (a wise man)
“CUBANA” 90 years Flying”

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