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Striding towards successful support

Bernie Baldwin reports on the maintenance and repair programmes supporting the record-breaking CFM56 engine family, and those being put in place for its successor, the LEAP engine range
The engine upgrades to the narrowbody aircraft of Airbus and Boeing have arguably created the biggest story in the airline industry during this decade, lengthening the lives of airframes which have been central to air transport. While the CFM56 from CFM International has begun to make way for LEAP engines on both the A320 and the 737, there is still a vast MRO market for the former powerplant.
“The CFM56 is expected to generate high volumes of MRO demand in the next five years, and in a buoyant CFM56 engine market, operators and MROs are struggling to induct engines because there are so many of this highly successful engine type in operation,” explains Aero Norway’s Chief Business Officer, Rune Veenstra. “The -5 and -7 have performed particularly strongly on-wing, leading to delayed shop visits. Some engines listed for a first shop visit in 2015 and 2016 will only be going in for repair in 2018 and 2019. 
“This led to an unexpected shortage of work in 2015-16. However, since the beginning of this year right through to 2020, operators may struggle to get their engines into the shop. Aero Norway originally forecast a 60% to 40% split in 2018 between the -3 compared to the -5 and -7. However, demand has been so great for the latter pair that it is likely to be closer to a 30/70 split in favour of CFM56-5B and 7B,” Veenstra confirms.
“Aero Norway predicts that peak demand for the CFM56 will occur from now through to 2021 at our Stavanger engine MRO facility, and we anticipate it will soon be running to full capacity of around 120 engine inductions. Investment strategies have been put in place to meet this pent-up demand,” he adds.
A similar assessment comes from Florent Leforestier, Vice President Products & Business Development Engine Services, SR Technics. “The [CFM56s] are longer in use than expected, the demand for engine MRO services is increasing and this is unlikely to change before 2023,” he predicts. “SR Technics has kicked-off a ramp-up plan already in December 2017, with the target of increasing its shop capacity by 50%, from 200 to 300 shop visits a year, by the fourth quarter of 2019. We expect the CFM legacy engine shop visits to peak around 2024.” 
Peter Turner, President Airlines & Fleets at StandardAero reports that third party market data sources suggest that the CFM56-7B engine MRO market is in excess of $4 billion and growing. “We are looking to extend our CFM56-7B services to any airline customers of our legacy Vector Aerospace businesses that might also operate the 737NG,” he remarks. “In addition, we have begun work with the US Navy for engine services on their growing fleet of P-8 Poseidon aircraft. This was a natural progression after a long history of engine maintenance on the P-3 Orion.”
ST Engineering Aerospace is another MRO company expecting continued high demand for maintenance work on CFM56. “There is still a large number of engines in operation that have yet to undergo their first heavy maintenance. These engines will also require a few shop visits over the next few years,” observes Choo Han Khoon, the company’s EVP of engine total support. 
“As for the LEAP engine, that only entered into service in 2016, and is expected to stay longer on-wing. It is projected to be due for heavy maintenance in 2023 at the earliest.”
Operators of the CFM products are continually on the lookout for support packages which benefit them both in terms of price, reliability and turnaround time (TAT). “ST Engineering solutions cover not just heavy maintenance, but also services ranging from line maintenance, on-wing support maintenance and fleet management,” Choo states. “In addition, we have aircraft/engine leasing services and are able to provide MRO services through an integrated package if that’s what our customers want.”
In creating its support programmes, StandardAero starts by working with the customer to understand the latter’s concerns and goals for each individual repair, whether their focus is on cost, performance, build life or otherwise, according to Turner. “Our engineers then develop workscopes that will provide maximum efficiency and longevity of the engine in the most economical way possible,” he declares. 
“It is almost always more economical for the end customer, and more profitable for the MRO provider, to repair a part rather than replace it. In cases where a part repair might be a prohibitively long process, we may use rotable pools of parts to expedite return of the engines. However, some operators are very particular about getting their original parts back. It’s all about balancing the customer’s expectations on turnaround time, price, and pedigree of the parts installed in their engine,” Turner comments.
Like StandardAero, Aero Norway is an authorised independent CFM56 repair facility and also takes a collaborative approach which Veenstra says appeals to operators and lessors alike. “We concentrate on sustaining flexibility of workscope for all customers,” he emphasises. “To best serve our customers – MROs, independent engine owners and leasing companies – we have taken steps to underpin the business in three fundamental ways: financial support to deliver working capital; sourcing of repair partners that can complement the flexibility of workscope that we, as an independent organisation, strive to offer; and the development of highly-trained apprentices to ensure continuity of the company’s engineering skillsets for the next 20 years and more.” >>

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