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Maintenance

Spin to win

Fokker Services is celebrating 20 years of its ABACUS component availability programme, something that forms part of an ever widening array of services that includes aircraft from other manufacturers. Ian Harbison reports
 

When ABACUS was launched, production of the Fokker 50 and 100 was in full swing, while the Fokker 70 had just made its first flight. Four years later, the company went bankrupt and the Type Certificate for all three variants was inherited by Fokker Services. Since then, those aircraft have continued to find new operators, even now there is demand for any that become available. In 2012, for example, 16 Fokker 50s, five Fokker 70s and 30 Fokker 100s were placed with 11 existing and six new operators, their respective aircraft sellers and lessors. Heino van der Laan, Vice President Sales and Marketing at Fokker Services, says after KLM Cityhopper recently announced the replacement of seven Fokker 70s with EMBRAER 190s, the aircraft were immediately snapped up. Of particular interest, he notes, were the four aircraft with an integral centre wing tank, which increase the range by 800nm.

 

Over the years, additional services have been added, most notably the FLYFokker programme (see MRO Management, March 2010), and the company is now in the position to support every aspect of the aircraft’s operation. Indeed, the company has committed to keeping in place its EASA Part 21 Subpart J Design Organisation Approval (DOA) and Subpart G Production Organisation Approval (POA) to keep the fleet flying beyond 2030. Since the start of the FLYFokker programme in 2009, 25 new airlines have been added to the Fokker aircraft operator list.

 

Van der Laan points out that many Fokker 50s are not yet even halfway through their 90,000 flight-cycle life. Importantly, there is also an ongoing commitment from the engine manufacturers. He says Pratt & Whitney Canada is talking to Fokker 50 operators about continued PW125B/127B product support programmes, while Rolls-Royce has introduced a Fractional Power programme which lowers maintenance costs on a power-by-the-hour basis for the Tay 650 used on the Fokker 70/100. For the Fokker 50, it has also involved StandardAero in a partnership that will include engine familiarisation and engine borescope training, dedicated 24/7 Field Service teams, accessory overhaul and test capability, as well as rental engine support.

 

The company is actively involved in acquiring spares inventories, but it has also taken steps to ensure support is available through Manufacturing Licence Agreements with several suppliers, including Goodrich and Messier-Dowty for landing gear, and thrust reverser parts from Triumph Aerostructures.

 

As aircraft age, there are a number of modifications that are either required, or alternatively, developed by third parties that will see a potential market. The company has now brought all of these together in an online trading platform called ModStore (www.modstore.aero). There are some 9,000 FAA/EASA approved modifications on various aircraft types, including Airbus, ATR, Boeing, Bombardiers and Fokkers. Visitors and buyers have free access to see what the modification entails and who to contact for more information, while sellers pay a fixed fee for unlimited access to add, alter or remove modifications.

 

All these measures are intended to keep the Fokker fleet in service but there will inevitably be a decline in numbers – the total fleet is now more than 500 aircraft with 180 signed up to ABACUS. In 2009, after the success of the programme had caught its eye, Bombardier reached an agreement that Fokker Services would support the out of production Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft with the ABACUS programme. This broad component support was launched under the FLY for Dash 8 programme, with the aim to keep the Dash 8 Series 100/200/300 and Q100/200/300 in service in the most effective way. This also provided a boost for customers signing up for new Bombardier CRJ and Q400 aircraft, as there was now an efficient way of transitioning out of their old fleets and protecting their residual value. There are now 60 aircraft in the programme, but van der Laan expects a significant increase over the next two years, mainly because of increasing demand for Dash 8 support. This year it has signed up Air Niugini (nine aircraft), Canadian North (four), Prime Aviation of Kazakhstan (two), SAT Airlines of Russia (four) and has just announced a 21-aircraft deal with Commutair in the US. By contrast, Trade Air of Croatia, with three aircraft, is the only Fokker 100 ABACUS deal so far in 2013.

 

Although the fleets are widely dispersed, there are significant clusters – Australia and Asia for the Fokker aircraft and North America, Asia-Pacific and Africa for the Dash 8s. As a result, Singapore has become an important hub for spares, repairs and maintenance, with a new EASA and FAA approved repair shop for avionics, hydraulics and limited structure component maintenance opening in July. The shop will supplement capabilities in the Netherlands and in Atlanta, Georgia, which specialises in air conditioning systems (including a component PBH contract for the Cathay Pacific Boeing 747 fleet), integrated drive generators, engine components and flight controls. To meet Dash 8 needs, additional inventory has been placed in Atlanta and Nairobi, while there is also a growing market in Latin America that is being monitored.

 

The Australian cluster is interesting; the aircraft have found favour with resource companies and are being used for Fly-in, Fly-out (FIFO) operations to remote mining facilities, exchanging work crews on a regular basis – some of the Fokker 50 turboprops even use dirt strips. Two of these operators, Skywest and Network, have also started regional operations for Virgin Australia and Qantas respectively (Network is a Qantas subsidiary), representing a return to the original design concept of the aircraft.

 

This has provided Fokker Services with a range of benefits. By the end of 2013 all aircraft operating above 29,000ft will have to be equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B OUT), an Air Traffic Management (ATM) surveillance system that replaces traditional radar-based systems. Instead of relying on radar, the aircraft avionics broadcast the aircraft’s position, altitude, velocity and other parameters completely autonomously to ground stations feeding the ATM surveillance systems. This is particularly important for FIFO, as radar coverage is typically very limited in remote areas. It was first selected by Skywest in 2011 for its Fokker 100s. However, ADS-B will also be required in Europe from 2015 and the US from 2020, so there is a potential market for other operators to retrofit their aircraft. In addition, Fokker Services has expanded its capabilities in this area to integrate the system with GNSS-based Required Navigational Performance (RNP), TCAS 7.1 and Controller – Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC). When all four components are combined, they meet the future requirements of the FAA NextGen and European SESAR ATM systems. >>


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