Many people consider the term MRO a buzzword in the aviation industry. It has been used in a general way to refer to different companies within the aviation market.
But what does MRO stand for? What is the role of MRO aviation companies? Keep reading as we disclose all the details for you.
What does MRO stand for in aviation?
MRO represents maintenance, repair, and overhaul. This term is commonly used in aviation to label any major maintenance facility, whether as part of an airline, an aircraft maintenance unit, an aircraft maintenance facility, or a military facility.
While it is true that the term has been generalized to refer to many different companies in the industry, it is also true that all of them revolve around the maintenance of aircraft. This is the real reason to use MRO aviation to categorize those organizations.
An MRO facility is a building, like a workshop or a hangar, which engages professional maintenance of aircraft. Moreover, some MRO facilities provide other engineering services and the inspection of engines, landing gear components, and other aircraft components to guarantee safety.
Therefore, MRO technicians and equipment help ensure flying aircraft runs safely and reliably by using their ground support equipment.
MRO services are not limited to the maintenance, repair, and overhaul of commercial airplanes. The most comprehensive aircraft MRO services can cover all of the following:
Other special aircraft
It is essential to notice that, although the term MRO facilities involve a significant industry area, the business models can be very different from one MRO facility to the other.
How does Aircraft MRO work?
As it was mentioned above, MRO involves a series of activities that go from component repair through maintenance activities to overhaul service. It was also mentioned that there are different business models, so we will do our best to describe how aircraft MRO works.
Before we speak about the business models, let’s take a closer look at the activities performed by aircraft MRO services.
Aircraft inspections and maintenance
Inspection includes verifying the conditions of the airframe structure and mechanical components, which is usually performed by applying Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) techniques. These inspections should also cover engines. The most relevant NDT techniques used include ultrasound, eddy current testing, liquid penetrant testing, bond testing, magnetic particle testing, resonance testing, and infrared thermography.
Maintenance refers to the work done to keep the aircraft in optimal conditions. It usually comes in the form of planned or preventive maintenance or when inspections discover any potential issues. It is essential to understand that maintenance does not mean the same as repair, as components requiring maintenance are not necessarily completely broken or not working.
Some examples of aircraft maintenance include:
Lubrication of fittings.
Lubrication of nose gear retract actuator.
Verification of emergency lights operation.
Verification of the pressure of the parking brake accumulation.
Aircraft repairs and overhauls
As we said, this is a specific activity that is usually confused with maintenance. Repairs may indeed derive from inspection and maintenance activities that discover broken parts, but they should be set apart from the previous activities. The idea is to perform inspections and maintenance to avoid repairs since the latter are necessary when the components are already broken.
Typical components requiring repair are failed instruments or controls that are not responding as expected, structural issues like dents, or broken windows, among others.
An aircraft overhaul is a significant endeavor requiring the aircraft to be disassembled part by part. Each part is then inspected to discard any potential issues and to determine whether it is fit to get back in operation. This is essential to keep aircraft airworthiness since mechanics can see what is happening below the surface. They inspect for unusual wear and tear and hidden damage and replace any component that is not fit for its purpose anymore according to standards and specifications.
Given their nature, these activities must be planned carefully so the airlines can keep their operations running smoothly.
Let’s focus now on the business models found in the aircraft MRO world.
Independent repair stations
These are the simplest among the business models found in the MRO world. They can be described as small organizations specialized in specific areas of repair like airframes or electric systems.
However, they represent a branch of a bigger organization that owns the repair stations. These are usually bigger than the standard independent repair stations and are generally found in the most significant airports providing service to the major airlines.
Also known as FBOs, these organizations are always based in one specific airport, hence the name. They usually have close relations with the aviation community of the airport, including local mechanics. They typically add fueling and parking to the services they provide.
Commercial airline hubs
Some people consider this is not an MRO business model. The reason is that commercial airlines have these MRO facilities in their major hub to service their own fleet only. While there are exceptions, major airlines do not usually offer MRO service to competitors.
Since the MRO facilities are usually in the major hub, airlines make sure any plane requiring maintenance, repair, and overhaul is scheduled to land in the location accordingly to improve efficiency for their operations.
Some regional airlines also own MRO facilities, but the main difference is that they can distribute them across their whole area of operations since it is much smaller.
The MRO Aviation Industry
In 2019, IATA forecasted that the average world citizen traveled once every two years. When the value market in the aviation arena grows, supporting operations and aircraft management organizations like MROs are at a higher cost.
Also, in 2019, MRO spending was expected to hit more than $115 billion in just ten years, according to the aviation consultancy Oliver Wyman. Of course, with the pandemic forcing every airline to keep their entire fleet on the ground, this kind of spending was slowed down.
However, with the flight demand increasing again, the number should move back to what was expected. In fact, North American aftermarket MRO spending is expected to reach $187.6 billion by 2028.
Given the fact that having in-house MRO capabilities requires an enormous amount of time and capital investment, it is obvious that airlines will continue to choose to work with an external MRO provider. So, MRO organizations can expect a brilliant future for their businesses.
However, it is important for these organizations to consider that MRO and the services they provide to commercial airlines must evolve as the new generation of aircraft and the whole industry grow together with technological developments like IoT, wearables, Augmented Reality (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and many more that seek to take passenger flight to the next level.
With these technologies in place and the power of Big Data, any MRO service provider can use data analytics to apply techniques such as condition-based monitoring and maintenance, which will improve efficiency and effectiveness by making intelligent decisions based on the data obtained.
In other words, MRO will keep escalating, and it will continue to be essential for the aviation industry.
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