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Will CFM's policy unlock Africa's potential?

Posted 19 February 2019 · Add Comment

The landmark agreement by CFM International to open up the aftermarket for its best-selling CFM56 engines should be good news for African airlines. Chuck Grieve reports.

When CFM International’s new conduct policy (CP) on its popular CFM56 engines comes into effect in February 2019, the entire airline value chain will be watching with interest.
For Africa, with its large fleet of CFM56-powered airliners, it could help unlock some of the continent’s forecast potential.
The deal, agreed last July with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is designed to enhance the opportunities available to third-party providers of engine parts, and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services on the CFM56 and the new Leap series engines.
A competitive MRO market is particularly good news in Africa, where CFM56-powered Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 narrow-bodies dominate the medium-haul fleet.
The CFM56 is acknowledged as the most successful aircraft engine of all time, with more than 30,000 examples delivered over four decades. About 13,400 are currently in service worldwide.
With that success has come logistical challenges, which MRO sources say have been exacerbated by the tight control maintained by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), a GE/Safran joint venture, of who services its engines and what parts they can use.
MRO sources point to the predicted logjam in CFM56 shop visits in the next three-to-four years, and the difficulties being experienced in sourcing parts, as incentives for the OEM to bow to airline pressure via IATA.
One industry contact suggested the deal is a direct consequence of the Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 tragedy in April 2018, when the failure of a fan blade led to a passenger’s death. The subsequent emergency airworthiness directives (EADs) on the CFM56-7B fleet highlighted a problem with the availability of parts from the OEM. “CFMI doesn’t have the capacity to produce as many as they need,” said the source.
It was aware of the problem, he said, and “obviously” was putting measures in place to boost its manufacturing output. But, meanwhile, “all parts providers are having difficult times getting these parts to meet customer requirements”.
A statement from CFMI said the CP “reaffirms its commitment to maintain and foster robust and open competition within the MRO market”, as well as the competitive nature of its MRO model.
Leading independent MRO and CFM56 specialist, MTU Maintenance, sees the CP as “great news” for African airlines.
Clive Rankin, MTU’s Africa sales director, said the CFM56 is “exciting to observe” at the moment because of the size of the installed fleet, while the related MRO market is “dynamic and healthy”.
In Africa, he said, many CFM56-3 engines are still flying, while the -5B fleet is relatively young, with an average age of only 10-11 years in the region.
“Once an engine matures, as we are currently seeing with the CFM56-3, the MRO focus is on reducing costs and maximising value for operators and owners. Luckily, the mature engine market also offers alternative material, such as used serviceable material or green-time engines, and enables more flexible solutions.”
Rankin said MTU Maintenance expects CFM56-5B shop visits to peak before 2020, although the large installed fleet will provide “strong demand” throughout the next decade. “We are currently seeing a surge in demand for spare engines here,” he added.
For the CFM56-7B, which has a much larger installed fleet, the peak in shop visits is likely to occur in the mid-2020s, with significant demand into the 2030s.
In the earlier phases of an engine’s working life, such as for younger fleets like the -5B and -7 variants, the MRO focus tends to be on longer-term and cost-effective operations, with increased on-wing times as a way of reducing costs, said Rankin.
Operators and their MROs can achieve this through services such as optimised fleet management, customised workscoping, alternative repairs, engine trend monitoring and on-wing support.
Rankin said finding CFM56-5B and -7B induction slots could be challenging. “Engine shops in general are full and planning and foresight are imperative. This is something that has been a key issue in negotiations in recent years.”
MTU Maintenance has around 30 customers in Africa and is “working intensively” with them to make sure they get the services they need within the timeframe desired. Investment in the MRO’s facilities in Hannover, Germany; and Zhuhai, China; are designed so the forecast growth in demand can be easily absorbed.
 

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