Paris Air Show

AFI’s new repair digs to cut turn times, cost

 - December 12, 2006, 9:04 AM

Last month Air France Industries opened an €84 million ($103 million) maintenance facility adjacent to Paris Orly Airport with a new work organization system to cater to the constant increase in third-party customers. While inaugurating the 441,000-sq-ft site, Air France chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta outlined AFI’s bold aim to improve performance by halving turnaround time and cutting production costs by 15 percent.

Dubbed EOLE, the French acronym for components maintenance and logistics support, the single story building holds some 850 people and 1,850 tooling systems transferred from AFI’s North Orly site between July and November last year.

Spinetta said AFI is moving toward the notion of “full support” and had seized the opportunity to build a completely new site to revamp its component overhaul and logistics processes. “EOLE has been conceived to optimize physical and data flows between the various entities with special emphasis on clarity of processes,” he said. “There are also improved working conditions for AFI staff in terms of quality of the working environment, lighting and soundproofing. It is also environmentally friendly as no waste goes into public networks. We are on target for ISO 140001 certification before the end of this year.”

However, the main union at the plant, CGT, slammed the use of internal security cameras to keep an “unwarranted” eye on the technicians working at the plant. The union accused management of placing restrictions on free movement between different parts of the facility that not only keeps unauthorized people out but hinders the task of health and safety representatives.

The new dedicated facility houses under the same roof five units dedicated to avionics, pneumatics, hydraulics, surface repairs and treatments and cabin fittings. Related services comprise logistics, spares pool, engineering and technical support. EOLE can handle component support for the new generations of Boeing and Airbus aircraft.

Spinetta said plans for EOLE include gearing up maintenance capacity with Lufthansa Technik for service entry of the A380 superjumbo with Air France and other carriers. He confirmed that “for the time being” the newly merged Air France and KLM would continue with their own MRO arrangements.

One major inconvenience concerns the proximity of EOLE’s location to Orly Airport’s radar system, a circumstance that required electrical insulation of several thousand square yards of the factory dedicated to avionics. AFI created a Faraday cage to avoid avionics maintenance activities interfering with takeoffs and landings of commercial aircraft at Orly and to stop interference from the latter from undermining avionics testing.

According to AFI president Alain Bassil, real support means giving airlines the components they need in the right place and at the right time. “Our investment in EOLE will help us adapt to this changing market,” he said.

AFI now holds flight hour maintenance contracts for around 550 aircraft. The value of component maintenance for third parties has doubled in less than five years to €355 million ($437 million).

AFI employs a total of 10,000 people at five facilities. In addition to EOLE at Orly, the Air France subsidiary also runs facilities at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and here at Le Bourget. Another location, specializing in the overhaul of the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 families, opened last year at at Toulouse Blagnac Airport.