in Maintenance / Features

Can Africa keep the wheels turning on its MRO potential?

Posted 10 September 2019 · Add Comment

African aviation has a quandary: operators canít afford to keep spending their maintenance budgets abroad, while establishing their own maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities is prohibitively expensive. But there is movement in the right direction, as Chuck Grieve reports.

Africa embodies “great unrealised potential” in aircraft MRO, and a growing number of international and domestic operators are moving to provide for the continent’s needs.
Inspiration comes from the successes and ambitions of the likes of Nigeria’s Aero Contractors and the maintenance divisions of Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines, and the drive of global companies such as the parts supplier AJW, Lufthansa Technik and ExecuJet.
With more than $1.5 billion annually in airlines’ heavy maintenance spend lost to the continent, there’s no lack of incentive to help keep MRO at home.
Hafsah Abdulsalam, AJW group sales director, is hopeful that the single African air transport market (SAATM) accord will help Africa realise its potential by encouraging collaboration and cooperation and a pan-African outlook to MRO.
From west Africa, Chidi Izuwah, acting director-general of Nigeria’s Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), said it was “incomprehensible... considering the importance of MRO” that the region does not have its own facilities.
Nigeria recently took the step of advertising for private sector partners to help underwrite the cost of MRO facilities. The government is reportedly looking at a build-operate-transfer (BOT) arrangement at either Abuja or Lagos.
The proposed facility would incorporate narrow-body and wide-body capabilities beyond the scope of Nigeria’s Aero Contractors. It’s been suggested Aero could form the core of a new, more ambitious national MRO operation.
Amos Akpan, a former managing director of Capital Airline, told ThisDay the government should help Aero Contractors – currently the “most patronised” operation of its kind in west Africa – and Arik Air grow their facilities to world-class standards. “We should move from proposals into the stage of execution of workable ideas using what we have as launching pads,” he said.
The anticipated growth in African demand has prompted the MRO division of Kenya Airways to set itself the target of tripling third-party business in five years. Ambitious? “If we don’t do it, someone else will,” MRO sales and marketing manager, Cornelius Mayende, told reporters.
Domestic airlines and operators from around Africa already fly to Nairobi for heavy maintenance on some of the most common aircraft on the continent, including Boeing 737 classics and NGs, 787s and Embraer ERJ-170/190s. In addition, Kenya Airways does line maintenance in a growing number of other African airports.
Ghana, meanwhile, is also reported to be proceeding with its own MRO project in Kumasi, capital of the Ashanti region. Ghanaian scientist, Dr Thomas Mensah, heads a group planning to build the country’s first such facility on land donated by the ruler of Ashanti. The $400 million project is part of long-term plans to make Ghana an aviation hub in west Africa.
In South Africa, Solenta Aviation is moving into freighter conversions with Swiss specialist IPR Conversions. Technical director, Johann Kruger, was quoted as saying Solenta’s Johannesburg base “will be the African conversion centre for IPR” by the end of the year. IPR holds approvals, among others, for large cargo door and structural tube conversion for the popular ATR72.
Solenta plans to add a second MRO facility at OR Tambo International Airport to handle the anticipated new business. The airline acknowledges staffing-up with ATR-qualified personnel will be a challenge, underlining the importance of its in-house apprenticeships and training.
Canadian airframer, Bombardier, plans to get closer to customers by relocating its Q Series regional support team to Airways Park, close to OR Tambo International Airport near Johannesburg. The move from Lanseria International Airport will co-locate the Bombardier team with its longstanding customer, South African Express Airways.
Support for CRJ Series aircraft is unaffected.
Todd Young, head of the Q Series aircraft programme, said strategic repositioning of support teams was “another step in our ongoing efforts to enhance our accessibility and support to customers and operators in the region.”
Q400 component repair has also given the African business of ST Engineering a boost. The Singapore-based global group has announced contracts with unnamed new customers.
Recent contracts with Air Côte d'Ivoire, Air Senegal and Mauritania Airlines show
AFI KLM E&M is “extending its footprint across the dynamic west Africa market,” according to the MRO’s senior vice-president commercial, Fabrice Defrance.
The Air Côte d’Ivoire deal “factored in” help for the airline in developing its own MRO capabilities. The airline’s chief executive, René Décurey, said AFI KLM E&M’s offer “delivers genuine added value for us’.
Estonia-based Magnetic MRO is expanding into Africa through the acquisition of Dutch company Direct Maintenance (DM), which has bases in Entebbe, Lusaka, Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Nairobi and Mombasa.
Risto Mäeots, chief executive of Magnetic MRO, said: “It is clear to us that this region deserves a strong local independent MRO business.”

Other Stories
Latest News

IATA warns governments on high cost of testing

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on governments to take action to address the high cost of COVID-19 tests in many jurisdictions and urged flexibility in permitting the use of cost-effective antigen tests as an

Gulfstream exceeds 500 in-flight connectivity service installations

Gulfstream Aerospace has surpassed 500 installations of the Inmarsat Jet ConneX in-flight connectivity platform on large- cabin aircraft. The Wi-Fi solution is available on new aircraft and can be retrofitted on qualifying existing

Embraer delivered 34 jets in Q2 of 2021

Embraer delivered a total of 34 jets in the second quarter of 2021, of which 14 were commercial aircraft and 20 were executive jets (12 light and eight large).

ICAO SG highlights African aviation's growth potential

Addressing Africaís aviation leaders last week, most notably through her opening of the 2021 AFI Aviation Week, ICAO Secretary General Dr Fang Liu highlighted the tremendous potential future for aviation in Africa that could be

Single-engine Denali aircraft joins Beechcraft turboprop family

Textron Aviation is realigning its turboprop aircraft lineup as the single-engine Beechcraft Denali (previously branded the Cessna Denali) to join the legendary twin-engine Beechcraft King Air 260 and King Air 360/360ER as part of

Rostec starts developing hydrogen-powered aircraft engines

United Engine Corporation of Rostec has started a programme to develop hydrogen-powered engines for both aviation and ground applications.

WDS SK2601090322
See us at
Aviation MENA 2022Aviation Africa 2021 BTOCDAS21_BTWDS BT1202090322