With delivery to the first European customer scheduled for January 2012, the continent's maintenance providers are gearing up to handle the Boeing 787.

TUI Travel group member Thomson Airways heads the queue of European operators awaiting the aircraft, followed by Polish flag carrier LOT. While the type has innovations in the shape of its composite fuselage, electronic brakes and bleedless environment, these have all been anticipated and preparations have been made, says Lufthansa Technik.

 787 autoclave
Lufthansa Technik has installed a new autoclave at its Hamburg services shop

As well as putting new infrastructure in place to address the 787's heavy use of electrical systems, LHT has upgraded its hydraulic testing facilities to cope with pressures of 345bar (5,000lb/in2), a capability also required by other types, including the Airbus A380.

LHT has also focused attention on handling damage to the 787's largely composite airframe, such as that which might follow ground vehicle collisions with parked aircraft on busy ramps. To this end, the maintenance provider has significantly expanded its airframe-related component services shop at Hamburg and installed a new autoclave there. With an internal diameter of 5m (16.4ft), the autoclave is designed to cure large fairings and other components after repair.

Dr Johannes Bussmann, senior vice-president of Lufthansa Technik's aircraft component services unit, says the provider's 787 component offering is intended to meet airlines' demands for control of maintenance costs in what is an increasingly monopolistic aftermarket. "A number of our customers have asked us to take a thorough look at the issue of the Boeing 787 component support," he says. "What they would like to have is a range of options when it comes to supply concepts... We can still see a certain trend as regards the 787, namely that manufacturers' efforts to achieve a low-cost product are inadequate. For instance, we've observed substantial rises in unit prices on the line replaceable unit side."

In a bid to minimise airlines' investment in line replaceable units, LHT is to hold regional stocks of the units throughout its network.

SR Technics, the Zurich-based provider owned by Abu Dhabi's state investment arm Mubadala, also has its 787 preparations under way. It has started to issue components requests for proposals for the aircraft.

Boeing, meanwhile, has enlisted UK-based Monarch Aircraft Engineering as a partner in the GoldCare maintenance programme it has devised for its newest type. With bases at London Luton and Manchester airports, the UK partner will maintain not only Monarch's 787s, but the UK-based Dreamliner fleet of the TUI Travel group, encompassing Thomson Airways, Tuifly Nordic, Jetairfly and Arkefly.

TUI Travel's head of aircraft management Mark German says the UK's Civil Aviation Authority made it clear that while it was happy with the GoldCare proposal, Boeing would require hangar and MRO capability in the UK in case ground damage needed to be repaired or an engine changed. "We put that to Boeing and they have contracted with Monarch to be one - not the sole - maintenance provider for GoldCare," says German.

Source: Flight International