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Maintenance

Stopping power

MRO for wheels and brakes is simple but it can generate high volumes of work. Ian Harbison spoke to two facilities with a different approach
 

World Aero

Phil Randell, Managing Director of World Aero, based near London-Gatwick, says wheels and brakes from some of the newer aircraft types are beginning to make an appearance in the facility. Thanks to a contract with an international flag carrier, support is given for the Boeing 787 wheels. At present, the business has seen an increase in volumes as aircraft accumulate more hours, although most operators are large enough to have their own workshops.

 

The company has a contract with a very large MRO to provide support on the 737NG aircraft. The work is outsourced to World Aero to relieve capacity during the busy spring and summer seasons. It is also in discussion with a large European airline for Boeing 777 wheel overhauls. Again, he notes that the OEM wants to keep the brake work but is happy to delegate the manpower for intensive wheel overhaul work.

 

Airbus widebody work is more ad hoc but he sees the potential for A330/340 work as aircraft drift down to lower tier operators. On the ATR 42/72 and Dornier 228, the company has been investing in inventory. He notes that the 228 is particularly difficult to support as there can be a 52-week lead time for factory new items.

 

The Embraer E-Jet family is an interesting case. It is one of the few that can use radial or bias tyres – most often, only one type is specified, such as bias with the 737NG. A wheel with a radial tyre can achieve approximately 800 to 850 landings between shop visits, whereas a bias tyre has a shop visit approximately every 300 landings. However, the wheel will still require an overhaul every 1800 cycles, thus due to landings between shop visits a radial tyre will have an overhaul every other tyre change or two visits, whereas a bias tyre will have on average an overhaul every four to five tyre changes. Returning to the 737NG, he says for comparison, typically, the main wheel tyre life is approximately 200-250 cycles.

 

As for the company, there have also been some recent developments. It is now certified as an FAA Part-145 Repair Station, which allows Form 1 dual release. The company also holds Transport Canada approval. It is growing to meet demand, with 25% extra floor space in the last couple of years – from 2,729 units in 2013 to 3,723 units in 2015. At the same time, there has been extra training for staff and steps to improve processes. Ultrasonic testing is of increasing importance as some wheels have experienced technical problems and this capability can now be supported by a new sister company, Inspection Technologies.

 

AAR

Scott Ingold, Vice President and General Manager of AAR Landing Gear Services, which includes wheels and brakes in its portfolio, says the Miami facility receives so many items that it has adopted an industrial approach to processing. Whether it is for wheels or brakes, and regardless of aircraft type, disassembly, cleaning, inspection and overhaul essentially follow the same procedures. That has enabled the company to introduce lean procedures that maximise efficiency. According to Ingold, the workshop looks like a production line. This is extremely important as airlines are increasingly looking for fast turnaround times. For wheels, this is 10 to 15 days. He adds that operators will send a truck on a weekly basis to deliver the next batch of items and collect overhauled equipment. Airlines are also looking for cost per landing agreements and AAR is developing these as a marketing strategy.

 

They are looking for a shop that is in close proximity as well. Wheels and brakes can incur steep freight charges because of weight and if shipment times can be reduced, there is additional advantage. For Miami, that means 80% of work is from North America. Most of the balance comes from Latin and South America, with the airport being a natural hub for airlines from those regions.

 

Ingold notes that wheels and brakes are often the last items to be considered by an airline for outsourcing, possibly because of the low costs involved – hence the lack of immediate financial gains – but there is no consistent pattern in the decision making process. The relatively low cost also means that the limits for declaring an item beyond economical repair are lower, so scrap rates are higher. On the other hand, this allows airlines to hold inventory to meet immediate needs.

 

For brakes, there is the growing share of carbon over steel. This is a harder market to play in, he says, as there is greater control of IP by the OEMs and less PMA availability. However, the AAR philosophy is to be OEM friendly and develop partnerships and this provides a useful workaround.


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