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Going by the numbers

As many Fokker aircraft are being retired, and those that remain are migrating to a new life in Australia, European heavy maintenance providers are turning their hands to other regional and narrowbody types. James Normile reports

It seems unlikely that many of the Fokker 70s and 100s currently in service or in storage will have to worry about reaching the end of their design lives. At 90,000 cycles or flying hours (FH), whichever comes first, and with no calendar life limit on the airframe, reaching the end would probably require decades of further service.


The aircraft’s Rolls-Royce Tay engines burn too much fuel and cost too much to overhaul for that to be a realistic possibility. But if the fleet is steadily shrinking, there is no lack of support for the remaining operators, while there are still some, notably in Australia, whose fleets are actually still growing.


The Dutch airworthiness authorities originally certified the 109-seat Fokker 100 (a major derivative of the F-28, Fellowship formally designated F-28 Mk 0100) in 1988, while the 80-seat Fokker 70 (or F-28 Mk 070), which has a shorter fuselage but more than 95% commonality in terms of LRUs, was signed off in 1994.


Production ended in 1996 with the bankruptcy of Fokker Aircraft, which had completed 278 Fokker 100s and 47 Fokker 70s. Fokker Services, which now holds the type certificates, puts the average age of the remaining Fokker 100s at around 35,000 FH or 30,000 cycles, while the Fokker 70s average between 25,000 FH and 30,000 cycles.


Home base

The Fokker Services maintenance base and former production site at Woensdrecht in the Netherlands should log between 70,000 and 100,000 man-hours on the Fokker types this year, but Peter Bulckaert, Vice President Redelivery Services and Site Manager, expects the number to fall to 20,000-30,000 in 2015.


“We used to do several hundreds of thousands of hours per year,” says Bulckaert. These days, Portugália, with its six-strong fleet of Fokker 100s, occasionally KLM, plus one or two state and military operators from Africa and South America, are among the few remaining customers.


The work may be rapidly declining, with Woensdrecht turning to Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 work to compensate, but the company remains committed to Fokker support: “Fokker is still the type certificate holder so we have a worldwide responsibility to operators. My colleagues at Fokker Services headquarters are constantly trying to improve the maintenance regime for them – trying to keep things current, replace obsolete parts and so on.”


One aspect of that work is the drive to escalate maintenance intervals. Fokker Services conducted a large-scale exercise a few years ago to escalate the typical 4,000, 8,000 and 12,000 FH checks by 25% to 5,000, 10,000 and 15,000 FH respectively. Peter van Oostrum, Director Aircraft Remarketing, says the company has since undertaken a significant effort to escalate most of the six-year tasks to eight years – that escalation was formally approved late last year.


“Various Fokker 100 operators have been able to take advantage of the increased flexibility in planning heavy checks,” he says. “Escalation of the 12-year tasks to 16 years depends on market interest and getting sufficient check-finding data from operators.”


A lot of effort has been put into the analysis of check findings from operators in a full range of operating environments, adds van Oostrum: “During the process it was encouraging to note that a large number of tasks could indeed be escalated on the basis of favourable maintenance histories. We mainly attribute this to the basic design and build standard of the Fokker aircraft in general.”


Maintenance in Maastricht

Another Netherlands company catering to the Fokker twinjets is SAMCO Aircraft Maintenance. Located at Maastricht Aachen airport, SAMCO offers full base maintenance checks, including modifications, upgrades and repairs, along with line maintenance and continuing airworthiness management organisation (CAMO) services.


“SAMCO provides turnkey maintenance solutions for operators and lessors at competitive rates,” says Chief Executive Officer Constant van Schaik. Customers include operators in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, as well as several lessors, for whom SAMCO provides storage as well as full maintenance services. “For lessors we provide services such as CAMO, storage, aircraft holdership/registration, ferry flights and so on,” he says. >>

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