Two of Europe's leading airline maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) organisations have created Spairliners, a $50 million joint venture to provide Air France, Lufthansa and other A380 operators with spares support from entry into service around the end of 2007. The new company is targeting 30% of the A380 spares support market within the next few years.

Lufthansa Technik chairman August Henningsen and Air France Industries president Alain Bassil were in Paris last Friday to brief journalists on the new venture. "We're co-operating in order to get synergies and economies of scale for our parent airlines and then to offer them to other A380 operators," says Henningsen.

"Though at present our priority is to get the company launched, we already have several other customers in prospect and I'm optimistic that we could sign some of them before the end of this year."
Spairliners has its origins in a contract signed by the partners last year and covering the supply of a complete line of components for the A380. For Lufthansa Technik the venture represents the latest step in journey that has placed it right at the heart of A380 support. The Hamburg-based company chaired the steering committee that developed the first maintenance schedule for the type. And it has a joint venture with Rolls-Royce specialising in the servicing of the Trent 500, 700 and 900, the last of which will power several A380 fleets.


Employing 15-20 people initially and headquartered in Hamburg, with an operations centre in Paris, Spairliners is a response to the opportunity presented by the generally small size of the fleets ordered by the early A380 operators.

"Apart from Emirates with its huge order for 45 aircraft, the initial operators have 15 aircraft or less," says Henningsen. "At such levels they are missing out on the economies of scale in spares support that peak around the 60-aircraft point." The potential for savings is significant - combining support for the Air France and Lufthansa fleets alone is expected to reduce cost per flying hour by 25% through reduced investment in inventory and cuts in administration costs through a simple flight-hour-based fee structure.

The Lufthansa Technik chairman explains the rationale behind the partnership on Spairliners: "Our two airlines have small individual fleets of A380s but together they add up to a worthwhile mass," he says. "We're both well endowed with expertise and workshop capacity. We have the experience of supporting more than a thousand aircraft between us, many of them Airbuses, and we are already involved in spares pooling arrangements. So it was natural for us to join forces - Spairliners is not such a big departure for us."

The two companies have individually launched spares support arrangements for several new types in the past. For Spairliners they plan to create not only a component pool but also a repair capability. Work arising from the latter will be divided between the partners, with each specialising so that there is no duplication of capabilities.

Components will at first be held centrally at a location in Paris Charles de Gaulle. But in due course regional logistics centres could be established in North America, South Asia and Australasia. "Spairliners is not simply a European concept - it's potentially worldwide in scope," says Henningsen.

Advantages for customer airlines are intended to include lower investment in their own inventory. "They will own only what they need to secure immediate dispatch reliability," says Henningsen. Spairliners will give a guaranteed availability of replacements within one to 10 days, with 1:1 exchange up front; and it will also manage the airline's inventory and the repair cycle.

The initial $50 million investment in Spairliners was covered by a mix of internal and external funds, and the partners are currently inviting no further investments: "We want now to move forward together on building the company and the business," said Henningsen. "But we do remain open to the possibility of extending the Spairliners service to other aircraft types."

"Avoiding an A380 AOG" is how the Lufthansa Technik chairman sums up the Spairliners mission. "We have to avoid that by all means - with 500 or more passengers aboard that would be very expensive. So in creating this company we have thought very deeply about how to safeguard the operational reliability of the A380."


Source: Flight Daily News