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The nacelle repair business is undergoing a transformation. Customers with older aircraft expect flexibility, while newer aircraft need different repair philosophies entirely

Situated minutes from Miami International Airport in Hollywood, FL, the Structures Division of HEICO Aerospace, works across a range of engine types in its nacelle and thrust reverser repair work, says Vladimir Cervera, Vice President/General Manager. While the work has been increasing in the last few years, it has also been changing.


Work on the Boeing 737 Classic, 717, 757 and McDonnell Douglas MD-80 is being replaced by the 737NG and Airbus A320. The 767 is still strong, but the 747-400 is being replaced by 747-8, 777, 787 and A330. This means the company covers CFM56-5A/5B/5C/7B; GE Aviation CF6-80C2, GE90 and CF34-10E; IAE V2500; Pratt & Whitney PW4000; and Rolls-Royce Trent 700 and 800. It has just started to develop capabilities for the GENx and Trent 1000. The A350 is still in the future but will be added to the list, Cervera notes.


The newer models have also brought changes in technology and materials, especially with the industry-wide replacement of sheet metal aircraft construction with newer technologies that utilise advanced composites. The company is constantly developing capabilities to be at the forefront of the latest advances.


The OEMs, which are becoming more aggressive in competing with MROs for repair business, understandably prefer to sell new replacement parts, while customers are always looking for the best value for their needs. It is a delicate balance between repairing or replacing material to ensure the best value, says Kim Barmoha, Director, Business Development & Customer Support at HEICO. In many situations, the company will work with the OEMs to support the airlines.


In other cases, it makes more sense to offer customers alternate solutions, such as FAA/EASA-approved Engineering Developed Repairs, to include FAA/EASA-approved parts fabrication (for obsolescent parts, parts with long OEM lead time, or those that come with a high cost). HEICO’s Structures Division has an engineering team dedicated to developing FAA/EASA-approved 8110 repairs when the required structural repair is outside the scope of the OEM CMM/SRM.


Barmoha comments that the repair business is very competitive, so to be a significant player there is a need to not only offer a broad array of capabilities, but also good turnaround times and price. Airline operators always seek the efficiencies, flexibilities and high levels of service that independent MROs can offer.


One service offered by HEICO is on-site/on-wing repairs, including AOG situations. As well as reducing down time and lost revenues, this allows the airlines to reduce costs with the elimination of exchange fees and shipping/customs costs for a replacement part.


The on-site repair team is handpicked from the most experienced and knowledgeable technicians, who are trained to work continuously for long periods of time in conditions which are often not as comfortable as a shop environment. In addition to their technical expertise, they have to be resourceful and efficient, as well as have an ability to adapt quickly to the changing scenarios and atypical situations that are often met in this type of work.


Once contacted by a customer with a need for field services, HEICO will request a damage report/description and pictures to evaluate the potential for an on-site repair. Barmoha says there are many factors in deciding whether on-site repairs are feasible, such as the size and location of the damage, as well as the suitability of the conditions at the aircraft’s location as required by regulation. Typically, a determination can be made within just a few hours, and if on-site repairs are, the team are en route on the same day, along with any required tooling and materials.


In one case, a customer encountered a bird strike on landing at Miami International Airport, damaging the inlet cowl of an Airbus A330 aircraft to such an extent that the aircraft was grounded. With no maintenance base of its own at the airport, the airline needed outside help and the HEICO team were on-site and inspecting the damage within one hour of receiving the request.


The team determined the best repair solution with coordination from the company’s engineering department, logistics then delivered the required materials and tooling to the airport. The work was completed overnight and the aircraft was able to depart the next day.


A similar service is on-wing inspection/assessment to assist the airline in determining whether a unit requires servicing. This might mean that any further work can be coordinated with an aircraft inspection. This is entering into the realms of preventative maintenance, and Cervera says the company is doing this to assist airline customers in optimising service intervals. As nacelles and thrust reversers are maintained on condition, predicting shop loads can be difficult and this will go some way to providing a degree of certainty.

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