Helicopter MRO market set to blossom

A new 10-year study of the civil helicopter maintenance, repair and overhaul sector is predicting that expenditures will grow from $5 billion in 2006 to $6.8 billion annually by 2016, an increase of 36%, according to research by US management consultants Aero­Strategy.

The increased maintenance costs shadows growth in the fleet, expected to rise from 22,170 civil helicopters today up to 31,170 by 2016, an increase of 43%.

Maintenance typically accounts for one-quarter of a helicopter's operating cost and is split into component MRO, with total industry spending of about $2 billion a year, followed by airframe maintenance, at $1.5 billion per year, engine overhauls at $1.1 billion and major modifications at $400 million, says AeroStrategy.

Counterbalancing increased maintenance dollars spent to keep older aircraft flying longer amid record backlogs are new health and usage monitoring systems and prediction algorithms designed to reduce maintenance troubleshooting requirements and unscheduled maintenance.

A major player in that arena is Sikorsky with the company's fleet management operations centre (FMOC) option for S-92 helicopter operators.

Opened in December 2006, the FMOC has accumulated more than 78,000 flight hours of data, downloaded daily, which includes aircraft component removals and faults, operational flight hours and availability and onboard HUMS parameters.

Eurocopter maintenance facility

Sikorsky currently monitors 16 operators flying 55 of the approximately 70 S92s that have been delivered.

"The FMOC has changed the culture in the industry from the old school of approach of 'our data, our hours' to now, finding value in sharing the data," says Steve Estill, Sikorsky's vice president of sales.

"Now they can see where they're doing well and what they should be working on. It also helps us to be more supportive to them for spare parts, upcoming inspections and other work."

Source: Flight International