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New dawn

Monarch Aircraft Engineering Limited has recovered from the trauma of last year and is now looking forward to an ambitious future. Ian Harbison reports from Luton

On 2 October 2017, it was announced that the Monarch Travel Group and Monarch Airlines had gone into administration and ceased operations. Fortunately, Monarch Aircraft Engineering Limited (MAEL), which was celebrating its 50th anniversary, was a standalone concern and remained unaffected by the financial problems. Although, says Chris Dare, Managing Director, a full maintenance schedule was suddenly cut in half with the loss of work from the parent airline.

The next day was the start of the MRO Europe exhibition in London and it soon became apparent that, as well as a lot of goodwill for MAEL, there was still considerable demand for hangar slots for the winter season. He says the commercial team did an excellent job, as, by mid-December, the hangars at Birmingham and Luton were booked out until mid-April. While some of this was continued support by major customers such as Boeing (MAEL is a Global Fleet Care partner) and Flybe, new customers such as Icelandair showed their confidence by sending aircraft rather than cancelling the contract – this was for C checks on a Boeing 757 freighter, three 767-300 and two 757-200 passenger aircraft. In fact, most of the work was from new companies, such as French airline La Compagnie, also for a Boeing 757 C check. He comments that there have been approaches from some operators that would have seen Monarch Airlines as a competitor in the past.

At one point, the amount of new work at Birmingham saw the record for manhours in a single day being broken on three occasions. The demand pressure also broke the logistics system and the company is now working with Unipart, a provider of manufacturing, logistics and consultancy services, to introduce greater efficiency, including Lean.

Lean had been introduced to a certain extent in the hangar and a Continuous Improvement Programme is in place but he also notes a change in attitude on the hangar floor, where the staff are driving their own efficiency improvements. This has come from a greater awareness that the company now has to survive in a very competitive market and entirely on its own merits. This has emerged in different ways. One staff suggestion was a shadow board of all the tools in use, with the price alongside. The result was a query from stores as to why demand had suddenly dropped – people are now more likely to take one item rather than two, he explains. Another employee, noting the visiting contractors, decided that he could offer the company a particular service at the same level of quality but at a lower price. Instead of setting up his own business, he was encouraged to do the work but join the business development team. The suggestion scheme has the added attraction that employees are paid a percentage of the cost savings.

Line maintenance

Line maintenance has become an important part of the business. Aside from operations at Birmingham (see MRO Management, September 2016), there are stations at Edinburgh and Gatwick (for Boeing), Kiev (for Wizz Air), Luton, Malaga and Nice.

These activities brought an early introduction to almost all the new generation aircraft, including Airbus A380, A350 and A320neo Family, as well as Boeing 787 and 737 MAX. Along with this has come considerable investment – about £2 million in tooling and training for the 787, for example. >>


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