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MROE: Growing OEM grip of aftermarket stirs up debate

One of the most intensely discussed topics at Aviation Week's MRO Europe 2011 conference in Madrid is the original equipment manufacturers' (OEM) increasing control of the maintenance, repair and overhaul market.

In the areas of airframe, component and engine support, the OEMs have gained up to 50% of the aftermarket today, with the remainder being split between airline-affiliated and independent MRO companies. While the engine maintenance business is evenly shared at around 25% between the latter two categories, airline MRO providers have traditionally had a strong position in the airframe maintenance business.

However, as more carriers outsource technical support services to concentrate on their operations, particularly for engine and component support, the respective business is taken up by the OEMs and independent MRO providers.

Engine and component manufacturers have steadily grown their maintenance businesses, and now the airframers are also increasingly moving in the aftermarket.

But David Marcontell, president of maintenance and engineering solutions at TeamSAI, wonders whether the OEMs really understand the MRO business and what advantages they can offer over third-party MRO providers.

Frederic Mazel, director of Airbus's A330/A340 Flight Hour Services programme, responded that the airframer moved into the aftermarket sector in response to airlines increasingly asking for support services as part of their aircraft order negotiations. As the maintenance work will be provided by selected MRO companies, Airbus will need to foster good partnerships with the external service providers.

A central benefit lies in the equipment performance data, which Airbus collects for its global fleet. This would be used to improve the aircraft's reliability, optimise maintenance and, ultimately, reduce MRO costs for the airlines.

Turkish Technic vice-president commerce Fuat Oktay painted a different picture. He argued that if the balance shifts further to the OEMs, this will have an impact on the ability of third-party MRO providers to develop capabilities, particularly for the more complex, new-generation equipment. This would lead to a less competitive MRO industry in the long term, which would in turn result in higher prices and lower bargaining power for airlines and suppliers.

Mazel contested that greater OEM involvement in the aftermarket would automatically lead to higher costs. He added that the manufacturers' support can even lead to higher residual values in aircraft, and that leasing companies had welcomed the employment of its maintenance programmes.

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