in Maintenance / Features

Ethiopian maps the route to 2025

Posted 18 September 2018 · Add Comment

Ethiopian MRO Services is building its capabilities to meet growing demand for MRO services and to expand its third-party business operations in Africa. Kaleyesus Bekele reports from Addis Ababa.

Ethiopian Airlines MRO Services began as a small maintenance centre when the national airline started operation in April 1946.
The 72-year-old airline is one of the oldest in Africa.
The maintenance unit has evolved to become one of the best MRO centres in Africa. Today it is one of the seven strategic business units of Ethiopian Airlines Aviation Group. Staffed by more than 1,500 aircraft maintenance technicians and engineers, Ethiopian MRO Services has six aircraft maintenance hangars.
Ethiopian Airlines chief operating officer, Mesfin Tasew, said Ethiopian MRO Services has extensive capabilities. He highlighted its full repair capability for most Boeing aircraft, including the B787, B777, B767, B737 Classics and NGs, and B757.
“We also have maintenance capability for the Airbus A350, which is a new aircraft. Currently we can do minor maintenance but we are developing a heavy maintenance capability.”
Ethiopian MRO Services has a full airframe maintenance capability for Bombardier Q400 aircraft.
It also has a big engine shop that can repair and overhaul the engines that power the B737 aircraft – the CFM International CFM56-3 and -7 series – as well as full overhaul capability on the P&W 150A engine that powers the Q400.
In addition to that, it has modular capabilities for PW4000, and PW 2000 engines. “We also have capabilities for auxiliary power units (APUs) that are installed on B767 and B737 fleet,” said Tasew.
Ethiopian MRO Services runs shops that can repair close to 1,000 different types of components of various types of aircraft models. “In addition to repair capabilities, we have some engineering capability to develop modifications on aircraft.”
According to Tasew, Ethiopian MRO Services has an ambitious plan to develop further capabilities on new engine models and additional components.
Recently, the MRO centre started developing an in-house capability for the General Electric GEnx engine that powers the B787 Dreamliner aircraft. By March next year it will have full overhaul capability. Ethiopian has already invested more than $8 million on building the maintenance capability for the GEnx but the total investment is expected to rise to $30 million by March.
Ethiopian Airlines has invested much to develop its MRO division capabilities, particularly on the infrastructure side. The centre has six maintenance hangars, four of them with closed doors. The company has invested $100 million to build two new hangars and associated infrastructure. One of these hangars has full paint capability.
The two new hangars are both on 16,000sqm sites and have the capability to house the biggest B747-8 aircraft. Each can accommodate two B787 or four B737s at the same time.
The airline invested $22 million to develop overhaul capability on the CFM56 engine and recently it invested close to $10 million for the PW150A capability. “We are making a lot of investment on capability development,” Tasew said.
As part of the Ethiopian Aviation Group, Ethiopian MRO Services has a 15-year growth road map dubbed ‘vision 2025’.
“Our vision is to be the leading MRO service provider in the Africa and Middle East region,” said Tasew. “As part of this, we have a clear roadmap to expand our facilities. The plan is to add at least one hangar every five years and to expand our engine shop every five years.
“We actually expect to have an additional hangar after three years because our fleet is growing and more customer airlines are sending their aircraft for repair.”
Ethiopian MRO Services is planning to build an entirely new component repair shop. “It will be a standalone modern shop that will enable us to develop capability to maintain components in the shortest time possible. The design is completed and, currently, we are preparing the budget for the construction.”
The centre’s technicians are trained at the Ethiopian Aviation Academy – the biggest aviation academy in Africa.
The MRO centre is approved by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA). It is accredited by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) including Boeing, General Electric (GE), Pratt and Whitney of Canada (PW), and Bombardier.
Ethiopian, which has been operating an all-Boeing fleet for decades, for the first time acquired Airbus aircraft in June 2016. Currently, Ethiopian MRO Services is trying to build its maintenance capability on the A350 jetliner, which the company operates.
Ethiopian MRO Services primarily serves the growing fleet of the national airline, which currently operates close to 100 aircraft and has more than 60 more on its order book.
The MRO division also provides aircraft engineering and maintenance services for other airlines; a number from sub-Saharan African countries are customers. “The traditional way was for customer airlines to bring their aircraft, engines and components to Addis Ababa and we repair them and send them back. But recently we have expanded our service to line maintenance at other airlines’ home base by positioning our technicians there,” said Tasew.
Ethiopian MRO Services provides total care support to Asky Airlines, Malawi Airlines, RwandAir, Cameroun Airlines, Congo Air, and Jambo Jet. It also provides line maintenance services to Arik Air in Lagos. “Since we now have excess capacity at our home base we want to aggressively work on third-party business. We have built state-of-the-art maintenance hangars and we have trained a large number of technicians.”
The revenue Ethiopian MRO Services generates from third-party business is growing. In 2016-2017 the centre chalked up $45 million from third-party business. In the current fiscal year, it anticipates earning $60 million.
Ethiopian MRO Services targets $520 million annual revenue by year 2025.
Several new airlines are being established in Africa and, currently, many countries are in the process of relaunching their national airlines. As the number of operators increases, so does the MRO market.
Ethiopian MRO Services is vying to catch a good chunk of this growing market and Tasew is confident the division will attract more customers from sub-Saharan Africa. “We will promote our maintenance capability and total care support that we can cater to customer airlines at their home base,” he said.
His organisation is collaborating with OEMs including Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, GE, PW, Honeywell, and Snecma in developing in-house maintenance capacities and extending these capacities to other African countries.
“We are in discussions with some manufacturers to forge some kind of partnership that will enable us to work together and gain a good portion of the MRO market in Africa and the Middle East,” Tasew said.
He added: “In the coming years our main focus will be promoting our MRO service capability in sub-Saharan Africa and expanding our market share in the region. We also want to attract more airframe maintenance work from African operators and Middle East carriers. We are trying to have strategic agreements with major operators like Flydubai that have bigger fleets.”
The second primarily focus will be developing component maintenance capabilities. The centre wants to grow the number of components it can repair focusing on B737, B777 and B787. It also hopes to start working on components of A350s.
In parallel, it needs to provide tailored solutions to other airlines by providing component support services.
Ethiopian MRO Services is planning to branch out to other African countries. “We have a plan to establish MRO facilities in west and southern Africa,” Tasew said. The organisation is contemplating setting up an MRO facility in Blantyre, Malawi where it has a sister airline, Malawian.
“In southern Africa, we have customers like TAAG Angola and Malawi Airlines, who bring their aircraft all the way to Addis Ababa for maintenance. We are going to establish an airline in Mozambique. It will be cost-effective and convenient for them if we establish an MRO centre there.”
Ethiopian MRO Services also anticipates setting up a centre in west Africa. “There is a huge MRO market. Nigeria has a big aviation industry. There are several operators in Ghana. We also have Asky in Togo. So, we need to establish an MRO centre in either in Lome, Accra or Lagos, where we can provide a better service to the west African market,” concluded Tasew.

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