John Holland moves focus away from heavy maintenance

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Australia's John Holland Aviation Services will put its focus on line and overnight maintenance and move away from heavy maintenance due to the intense competition from foreign MROs.

General manager Ross Alexander told Flightglobal Pro in an interview that the company has recently begun winding down the Boeing 737 and Embraer 190 heavy maintenance programmes at its facility at Melbourne's Tullamarine airport.

"The actual heavy checks themselves were a line of C-checks and modifications as part of a programme which at the time everybody went into hoping it would work," he says. "From a product point of view, it worked, but from a cost point of view I don't think it met the customer's expectations compared to what they could achieve overseas."

That has resulted in JHAS recently shedding 40 technical and engineering positions at the Tullamarine facility.

Alexander says that compared to other maintenance shops in Asia and New Zealand, the high cost of labour in Australia makes it hard to compete sustainably.

"Especially for the larger C-checks that extend up to four weeks and are in excess of A$1.5 million and 70% of it is labour, it is purely on the labour cost which drives the economic choice," he adds.

"As a business, we've had to review our product lines to take a view on what's sustainable going forward. For us, if we can't compete with Asia, that means that we really need to focus on the maintenance activities that are required to be done in-country."

As such, the company has put more emphasis on line maintenance services, overnight and A-level checks that can be conducted at its main bases.

John Holland presently provides overnight checks on Jetstar's Airbus A320s and A321s based at Tullamarine and line maintenance services on Virgin Australia's A330s and for a number of international airlines at stations in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane.

That includes a growing number of international clients, for which it competes against other firms such as IASA Global and Aircraft Maintenance Services Australia, which is a unit of SIA Engineering.

"Line work is always going to be required by the international organisations flying in here and we're very happy to provide maintenance services and turn their aeroplanes for them," says Alexander.

He adds that the company could also expand its services to other cities in the near future.

"We're looking at places like Darwin, Cairns, Coolongatta and potentially New Zealand," he says.