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Air operations, Industry outlook

MRO — turbulence and opportunity in recovery

April 20, 2022

Tracking aircraft equipment, utilization, positioning and schedules are key to staying flexible.

It’s fair to state a pattern is emerging in airline recovery, but it is not a strong enough signal for MROs to set long-term strategic plans to just let things run.

Cirium data shows active narrowbody aircraft, utilization and capacity approaching 2019 levels. Widebody and international travel lags behind but patterns are starting to emerge as confidence in international leisure travel grows and borders open.

This doesn’t mean MROs should return to pre-pandemic operations at the pace of airline recovery. Recovery models in APAC and Europe look different than the US. Capacity from airport to airport looks very different than 2019, with select leisure destinations outpacing business destinations. Aviation Business News echoes this sentiment in its MRO global market outlook 2022 calling for adaptability and flexibility in 2022.

The move to smaller aircraft, more efficient aircraft, fluctuations in fuel prices and staffing challenges continue to make planning difficult for MROs.

Information is vital for staying ahead of the curve

Tracking aircraft equipment, utilization, positioning and schedules are key to staying flexible. In other words, information is key to not only keeping pace with recovery, but understanding the opportunities that continued disruption and a dynamic environment present. 

Access to trusted data is critical for senior-level decision making and planning. Just as impactful is democratizing the data by integrating it into key processes and systems. Providing detailed aircraft data and realtime schedule updates at the employee level enables each station to optimize their daily activities and avoid costly mistakes with parts inventory, bay scheduling and staffing.

What to watch

  • The growth in cargo revenue has driven record numbers of cargo conversions with no sign of letting up. Additionally, Cirium’s Fleets data shows 61 orders for new freighters were made in 2021—the strongest year for orders since 2018. 
  • Similar to cargo, but not directly related to it, depending on how and when business travel returns, airlines may begin looking at updating passenger cabin configurations based on longer-term passenger trends.
  • Throughout the pandemic, retirement volumes have been much lower than in previous years. In 2021, only around 300 aircraft retirements were tracked – compared to 480 commercial jets permanently retired in 2019. According to Rob Morris, Cirium’s head of consultancy,  the industry can expect to see around 400 single-aisle aircraft parting out annually for the next few years.
  • Fuel prices, changes in routes and the focus on flying more efficient aircraft may cause airlines to rethink their maintenance base strategies. Ferrying empty aircraft to maintenance locations, fuel tankering or carrying maintenance flyaway kits becomes less appealing.
  • Airlines are only 28 years away from their deadline for a net-zero carbon emissions industry. This likely means massive disruption in airline operations and aerospace over the coming years. New technologies, new practices and new equipment will be introduced to the market at a pace not seen since the de Haviland Comet took off. Installing and maintaining this equipment will be as important and getting more hours out of existing parts through more frequent and maintenance and refurbishment.


Cirium MRO resources

Cirium fleets data: Track every aspect of airlines fleets to propose new solutions and identify new service opportunities. Access the world’s largest independent aircraft database containing more than 300 attributes describing 400,000 individual aircraft. It tracks more than 2.4 million aircraft events, from ownership changes to maintenance activity.

Cirium schedules data: Know what flights are planned and their actual status within seconds. Detailed flight times, positional data, operating conditions and more are available to help stay ahead of an airline’s plans and track schedules down to the second.

Cirium Dashboard: Stay ahead of the competition with the latest industry news, paired with airline data and in-depth profiles of thousands of aviation organizations.

Ascend by Cirium: Improve the management of aircraft investments, financial strategies, residual value risks and aviation assets.

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