SR Technics is expanding engine overhaul capacity, as it prepares for a rise in volume generated by CFM International CFM56 powerplants.
Klaus-Peter Leinauer, the Swiss MRO provider's vice-president for sales in Europe and the CIS, told FlightGlobal at the MRO Europe event in London on 4 October that shop-visit demand had increased "extremely" this year, and that SR Technics' engine facility in Zurich was "full".
The site has capacity around 200 engines per annum and its capabilities span CFM56s and Pratt & Whitney PW4000s. Capacity is being expanded to 280-300 engines a year, says Leinauer. He did not disclose a timeline, but says that efforts to raise productivity and to recruit staff – from other divisions as well as from outside the organisation – are under way.
Leinauer acknowledges that Air Berlin's insolvency filing represents a "big problem". Under a long-term deal, SR Technics services Air Berlin's CFM56-5B and PW4168 engines, which power the carrier's Airbus A320-family and A330 fleets, respectively.
Air Berlin will cease long-haul flights this month. EasyJet and Lufthansa Group are looking to acquire other parts of Air Berlin's operations.
However, Leinauer says a likely loss of the Air Berlin engine-support business is no reason to halt SR Technics' overhaul capacity expansion. He says the in-service PW4000 fleet still represents a sizeable MRO market and that, more importantly, overhaul demand for CFM56-5Bs and -7Bs – which power A320-family aircraft and Boeing 737NGs respectively – will increase, as the majority of those aircraft have not undergone a first shop visit yet. "The [CFM56 overhaul] wave is coming," he says.
Nevertheless, Leinauer acknowledges that SR Technics' ownership change last year bolsters its confidence in expanding. China's HNA Group acquired an 80% shareholding from Abu Dhabi's investment fund Mubadala. Leinauer says HNA's airline subsidiaries will provide a baseload for the Swiss shop.
As for potential extension of SR Technics' overhaul capabilities to new-generation engines, Leinauer confirms the MRO provider is considering the Leap family and Pratt & Whitney PW1000G geared turbofan. He indicates that adoption of Leap capabilities is a more likely scenario for the CFM56 specialist. Services for a new large engine type for long-haul aircraft are not on the agenda, however.
In the airframe maintenance arena, SR Technics has since 2014 concentrated its efforts on conducting complex interior upgrades, as regular heavy checks did not represent a viable business at the company's Zurich headquarters.
Leinauer says SR Technics foresees opportunities to supply leasing companies with cabin upgrades when aircraft move between operators. He predicts that a "wave" of 777 lease-returns will generate volume, as will demand for IFE and wi-fi installations on single-aisles.
SR Technics gained 777 maintenance approval in 2016.