Big Aircraft, Big Changes

New Trends in Aircraft MRO

By Eric Bahr, PE

Throughout the history of commercial air travel, the trend has been to produce and utilize increasingly larger aircraft. This is a trend that persists today, as concepts for larger aircraft, like Boeing’s 777-9X, are announced. The philosophy here is simple: the bigger the aircraft, the more seats available. More seats per aircraft means getting more seats into corresponding gates. In airports that have limited available gate space, this translates to more revenue for airlines.

But as new aircraft arrive — offering the promise of moving more passengers more efficiently — airlines come face to face with a new challenge. Hangars that have been in use for decades reveal that their spaces are too small for these new fleets, impacting the maintenance and operations of support facilities and personnel. This puts airlines in a difficult position.

Airlines have been making the choice between in-house and contract maintenance for years, using either third-party maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) shops, or the shops of other airlines. Another trend is moving the responsibility of this maintenance to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), which has the potential to solve many of the capacity issues airlines are facing.