Aviation and aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) is a critical market. Its purpose is to ensures the safety and airworthiness of aircraft or aircraft components in line with stringent regulations.
What is an aviation MRO?
In aviation, MRO refers to a set of procedural activities, including administration, supervision and managerial practices aimed at restoring aircraft to its safe and original state, performance and function.
MRO companies, which retain spacious facilities to accommodate aircraft, provide essential services, including scheduled maintenance activities of certain segments such as the engine, line, airframe or component of an aircraft.
A wide variety of MRO companies concentrate on only one segment. For example, some enterprises focus exclusively on engine or airframe MRO services.
Furthermore, to ensure compliance with the aviation industry’s strict regulations, the MRO sector and its companies must be certified by the aviation regulatory bodies such as the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to name a few.
Here, AeroTime explores the leading companies in the aviation MRO market.
Leading players in aviation MRO market
GE Aviation was founded in 1917 and counts 104 years of operation in the global MRO market. The American MRO giant is headquartered in Evandale, Ohio, the United States.
GE Aviation, an operating unit of General Electric, is a global provider of jet and turboprop engines, as well as avionics and engine maintenance for commercial, military, business and general aircraft. The company’s products, services and activities are subject to a number of regulators such as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and other regulatory bodies.
With more than 33,000 engines in service, GE is a world leader in jet engine manufacturing. The company’s key customers include Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, Embraer, Sikorsky, and Lockeed Martin. The MRO giant also boasts a network of nearly 80 plants in 19 countries, which manufacture engines and provide overhaul, maintenance and repair services.
Interestingly, GE Aviation is best-known for developing the world’s largest and most powerful commercial engine. In the early 1990s, GE developed the GE90 turbofan engine to power the twin-engine Boeing 777. The baseline GE90 engine was certified on the aircraft in 1995 and became the first commercial jet engine to operate with carbon-fiber composite front fan blades.
In 2013, and building upon the GE90 success, GE launched the GE9X engine as the sole engine for the yet to be certified Boeing 777X aircraft. Then, in 2019, GE has announced that the GE9X was the most powerful commercial jet engine after reaching 134,300 pounds of thrust during ground testing in Peebles, Ohio. This broke the previous record held by the GE90-115B engine, which was 127,900 pounds in 2002. By 2020, the GE9X had more than 700 engines on order for the Boeing 777X.
Recently, GE Aviation and Safran, a leading international high-technology group, launched the CFM RISE program to develop a new generation of sustainable engines.
John Slattery, President and CEO of GE Aviation was quoted in the company’s press release as saying: “Together, through the RISE technology demonstration program, we are reinventing the future of flight, bringing an advanced suite of revolutionary technologies to market that will take the next generation of single-aisle aircraft to a new level of fuel efficiency and reduced emissions.”
According to Slattery, the new engine is intended for narrow-body aircraft, thus replacing the CFM LEAP currently in use by the latest generation of mainline jets, such as Boeing 737 MAX, Airbus A320neo and COMAC C919.
CFM International, a 50/50 joint venture of American GE Aviation and French Safran, was founded in the mid-70s. Since then, it has become one of the world’s most prolific manufacturers of aviation engines for narrow-body aircraft.
Lufthansa Technik can be traced back to 1951, predating its parent company, the German national carrier, Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA). However, the company currently operating under the name Lufthansa Technik was established in 1995.
Lufthansa Technik is the world’s leading provider of aircraft maintenance, repair, overhaul and modification services from commercial civil aircraft to VIP and special mission aircraft. Lufthansa Technik is based in Hamburg Airport (HAM), Germany, with other important sites situated at Frankfurt Airport (FRA) and Munich Airport (MUC).
The Lufthansa Technik Group consists of 32 companies with more than 22,000 employees worldwide. The German MRO giant has approximately 800 customers worldwide maintaining 4,500 aircraft under exclusive contracts in 2020.
“In fiscal year 2020, we had more than 4,500 aircraft under exclusive contracts. Over the course of the year, we won 16 new customers and concluded more than 500 new contracts with a total volume of €2.3 billion for 2021 and the following years,” read the Lufthansa Technik statement.
ST Aerospace, a subsidiary of ST Engineering, was established in 1967 to provide maintenance and support services to the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF). Since then, it has diversified into various MRO capabilities for commercial and military aircraft.
Headquartered in Singapore, ST Aerospace has international offices and facilities located at aviation hubs in Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Europe, and the United States. The Singapore-based MRO company has customers in more than 100 countries and employs approximately 8,000 staff across the globe.
The company provides aircraft maintenance repair and overhaul services for a wide range of aircraft components and engines via a global repair and logistics support network. It offers services for avionics (including electrical, radar/communications, instruments and electro-optics), mechanical components and engines support (such as CFM56-3/-7B, JT8-D, J85, F404, F100, T53, T55, T56, LEAP-1B, Turbomeca Makila and Arriel engines).
To date, ST Aerospace is recognized as the world’s largest airframe MRO solution provider with the capacity to work on up to 44 widebody, 26 narrow-body and 24 general aviation aircraft at once.
In 2020, ST Aerospace expanded its capabilities in engine MRO after signing an agreement with CFM International to perform MRO work on the LEAP-1B engine, the exclusive engine for the Boeing 737 MAX.
“We are monitoring the pandemic situation closely and will calibrate the pace of LEAP 1B setup to match Boeing 737 MAX return to service,” read the ST Aerospace statement.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, ST Aerospace, like many other businesses in the industry, was hit hard. Despite the downturn during 2020, ST Aerospace saved and concentrated on a multi-year heavy maintenance contract to support a Chinese cargo airline’s Boeing 767 fleet, a three-year heavy maintenance contract for Alaska Airlines’ A320 fleet and a five-year heavy maintenance contract to support an international air cargo carrier’s multiple fleet types.
Today, Rolls-Royce Holdings, which is owned by Rolls-Royce (established in 1904), designs, manufactures and maintains engines for the aerospace industry.
The British engineering giant primarily focuses on aircraft engine MRO and its development. Rolls-Royce powers more than 35 types of commercial aircraft and has over 13,000 engines in service around the world. Key Rolls-Royce customers include aircraft manufacturers and commercial air carriers such as Boeing, Airbus, Air China, Qatar Airways or Emirates. Additionally, Rolls-Royce has a wide network of engine repair and overhaul service centered across the globe, most of which are in Europe and the United States.
The most popular Rolls-Royce engines range from M250 to the Trent XWB. Members of the Trent engine family are now in service on the Airbus A330, A340, A350, and A380, as well as the Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner.
Recently, Rolls-Royce started building the UltraFan, the largest aero engine in the world. The UltraFan is expected to exceed the capabilities of the current largest and most powerful aircraft engine, the GE9X. UltraFan engines are predicted to power both narrow-body and wide-body aircraft and deliver a 25% fuel efficiency improvement in comparison to the first generation of the Trent engine family.
Rolls-Royce is also renowned for its indoor aerospace testbed, which is the world’s largest, situated in Derby, United Kingdom. Testbed 80 was officially opened on May 27, 2021.
After three years of development and with $127 million of investment, Rolls-Royce constructed Testbed 80, aiming to promote sustainability and contribute to lowering emissions in the aeroengine market. The new facility covers an internal area of 7,500 m2.
Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company (HAECO) is an independent aircraft engineering and maintenance, repair and overhaul group. Its head office is on the grounds of Hong Kong International Airport (HKG).
Established in 1950, the HAECO Group consists of 18 subsidiaries and affiliates, and employs roughly 17,000 staff in Hong Kong, Mainland China, Singapore, Europe and the United States, as per HAECO data.
HAECO is responsible for a full spectrum of services, including airframe services, line services, component services, engine services, inventory technical management, fleet technical management, cabin solutions, private jet solutions, freighter conversion, parts manufacturing and technical training.
HAECO has attracted 150 customers worldwide, including Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, COMAC, Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific.
Pratt & Whitney
Pratt & Whitney is an American engine manufacturer also known for its wide network in engine MRO services. Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies, was established in 1925.
As one of the biggest aircraft engine manufacturers and aircraft engine MRO providers, it competes with GE Aviation and Rolls-Royce, although it has also formed joint ventures with both companies. P&W is headquartered in East Hartford, Connecticut, United States.
P&W data shows that the company’s large commercial engines power more than 13,000 of the world’s passenger aircraft fleet and serve more than 800 customers in 160 countries. Additionally, the company has a wide network for aircraft engine overhaul and component centers in Europe, Asia-Pacific and the United States.
A statement from Pratt & Whitney read: “Our fleet of commercial engines has logged more than 1 billion hours of flight, powering the narrow and widebody aircraft that fly both passengers and cargo around the world.”
The most popular Pratt & Whitney commercial aircraft engines range from PW600 to GFT. In recent years, flight hours tripled across the combined GTF-powered fleet of the Airbus A320neo family, Airbus A220, and Embraer E190-E2 and E195-E2 aircraft, according to Pratt & Whitney.
Air France Industries and KLM Engineering & Maintenance
Air France Industries and KLM Engineering & Maintenance (AF KLM E&M), a subsidiary of Air France-KLM Group, was founded in 2004. Their headquarters are in Tremblay, France.
The business operates in three major maintenance segments: airframe maintenance, engine maintenance and component support (electronic, mechanical, pneumatic, hydraulic). However, AF KLM E&M is also responsible for a range of services, including line, predictive maintenance, and technical training services.
The European MRO service provider employs approximately 14,000 people and provides services to around 200 airlines. AF KLM E&M supports 2,800 commercial aircraft.
MRO market trends: what’s the latest?
Over the last decade, the commercial MRO market has experienced steady growth owing to the global economic rise, an increase in demand for air travel and expanding global fleet. However, the COVID-19 pandemic provided a setback during the last 12 months or so.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global aviation industry lost over $118 billion in 2020 and dozens of airlines seek bankruptcy protection or stop flying entirely as a result. During the crisis, cash preservation and cost control remained a priority for airlines, which also resulted in bad news for aerospace manufacturers and maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) service providers.
In total, the COVID-19 crisis is estimated to have lowered spending on commercial MRO by about $40 billion in 2020, according to analysis conducted by the American consulting firm Oliver Wyman, Global Fleet and MRO Market Forecast 2021-2031. As per Oliver Wyman estimates, the spending on commercial MRO in 2021 will reach $68 billion.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, commercial MRO demand is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels until the end of 2022, according to the Global Fleet and MRO Market Forecast 2021-2031 study. The timing of MRO’s return to pre-pandemic levels of spend is primarily determined by a recovery in air travel demand, which is driven by economic recovery and the pace at which the international community battles the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, despite the reduced expectations for MRO growth, the compound annual growth of the sector between 2019 to 2031 is expected to grow by 3%, according to the analysis.