Lufthansa Technik is warning of an imminent shortage of landing-gear legs from 2010 as manufacturers struggle to secure enough high-grade steel to meet demand.

Karsten Stein, director sales and product manager of landing-gear services at the Hamburg-based maintenance repair and overhaul company, says average demand in 2006 was an annual 1,000 shipsets, but the global fleet will require 2,500 by 2011, representing a doubling of capacity within five years.

Stein warns airlines to be aware as the period from 2010 for securing landing-gear gears legs "could become critical". He blames difficulties in sourcing the necessary amounts of high-strength steel and says it is taking around 900 days lead time to secure a shipset for a Boeing Next Generation 737.

"If a customer has not booked in advance they could well be running into trouble. Customers have to be smart and look really hard at their fleet requirements," he says, remarking on Australia's Virgin Blue's move to secure capacity when it recently signed a significant landing-gear support contract with LHT for its 737NG fleet.

LHT has launched a dedicated service that manages its customers' landing gears over their entire life and assumes responsibility for overhaul, exchange, leasing and loans through to resale.

LHT has 197 replacement landing-gear legs available. Landing-gear overhauls are almost entirely done on an exchange basis. Between three and five days' ground time are required for exchange, while the overhaul of a landing gear takes longer than a D check with, for example, the landing-gear overhaul for a Boeing 747 taking five to six weeks and that of a narrowbody taking three to four weeks.

"As fleets are increasing globally, there is obviously an increase in demand in overhauls and a pressure on lead times for all OEMs," says landing-gear manufacturer Messier-Dowty. "However, we have anticipated this increase for a number of years, and are planning earlier with suppliers. We are also increasing capacity through improved internal efficiency, such as lean manufacturing."

The company says it works closely with MRO affiliate Messier Services to offer its own life-cycle packages that "not only give greater flexibility to customers, but bring added value through combined OEM and MRO support".

Source: Flight International