Manufacturer says system is based on "co-operation agreement" as it acts to reduce airline spare parts holdings

Airbus is to launch a network of approved maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) providers in 2004. It has also launched specific customer support measures designed to make airline spares management more cost efficient, saying that this part of the air transport industry has changed little, while systems management in other sectors has advanced rapidly.

Airbus does not name MRO provider candidates, but Stephane Gosselin, senior director maintenance, economics and reliability, says the major or "global" players in the third-party maintenance sector are expected to participate. Joining the Airbus MRO providers network is voluntary, but Gosselin says there will be no shortage of applicants. Appropriately qualified providers that do not join will be free to provide maintenance for Airbus types.

The system is based on a "co-operation agreement". The MRO providers will have to demonstrate experience, capability, quality, customer satisfaction, and agree to exchange technical data with Airbus to enable the manufacturer to formulate product improvements. Airbus's part of the deal is to promote network providers' services, provide advance information on draft service bulletins, market requirements and major retrofit programmes. Work contracted with Airbus by customers will be purchased from network members.

Meanwhile, Airbus has floated a number of initiatives all aimed at dramatically reducing airline spare parts holdings, replacing them with just-in-time spares provision and data-based prediction of requirements. Most of the cost of spares holdings would be transferred to Airbus, but with its access to global fleet data and spares consumption, it can do this more efficiently than can a series of individual customers. Much of the programme's effectiveness depends on agreed sharing of maintenance data between customers and manufacturer to enable Airbus to build a reliable database of spares movements. One of the programmes, known as customised lead-time extended range, promises to reduce an airline's spares holdings by 45% in the first year, and has so far attracted custom from six airlines or MRO providers in North America, 20 in Europe, and more than 25 elsewhere.

Source: Flight International