EasyJet will soon make a decision on the extent to which it will adopt a block-maintenance philosophy whereby aircraft are serviced in fewer but more comprehensive checks.
The UK budget carrier has been following an equalised maintenance philosophy for its Airbus A320-family fleet, whereby C-check tasks are allocated into evenly sized work packages that can be completed overnight. This has been pursued to avoid downtimes of several days for traditional C-checks and to maximise aircraft availability during daytime hours.
As its fleet matures, however, EasyJet will have to adopt a traditional letter-check philosophy for aircraft older than 12 years. At that age, airframe maintenance becomes less predictable because inspections may more likely bring up findings that require longer repair times than overnight checks.
Management is “very close” to making a decision on whether block maintenance will not only be adopted for mature aircraft but also for younger ones, EasyJet’s head of fleet technical management Swaran Sidhu told Flightglobal during a media briefing at the airline’s base in Luton on 7 May.
Three options are available, he says. The airline could adopt the block-maintenance approach only for mature aircraft while continuing equalised checks for younger equipment. Alternatively, the whole fleet could be serviced through traditional C-checks. However, the airline is also evaluating a change of tack in 2017, when deliveries of the re-engined A320neo are due to begin as part of its fleet replacement programme, says Sidhu.
Last year, EasyJet ordered up to 135 A320s, including 100 A320neos.
The engineering department is evaluating the best point during the aircraft’s service life for change in the maintenance philosophy. Sidhu says that the team is assessing whether the “sweet spot” is at the first or second scheduled heavy maintenance event.
A320s undergo their first intermediate layover check after six years, with the second IL-check to follow at 12 years of age. The objective for a change in the MRO philosophy is to maximise aircraft availability, says Sidhu. A main advantage of block maintenance is that it means checks can be conducted during low seasons, boosting aircraft availability during the peak holiday period.
EasyJet operates a fleet of approximately 220 CFM International CFM56-powered A319s and A320s.
Overnight checks are conducted at the airline’s hangar in Luton as well as at third-party maintenance providers such as Lufthansa Technik, SR Technics and Virgin Atlantic’s MRO base in Gatwick.
Swiss-based SR Technics is conducting IL-checks for EasyJet’s fleet at its narrowbody heavy maintenance base in Malta.