HAI Convention News

Aircraft Maintenance Assuming Greater Role in Value of Helicopter Operations

 - February 13, 2012, 7:46 PM


Operators’ emphasis on controlling lifecycle and direct operating costs (DOC) has thrust maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) into a lead role in rotorcraft operations, expanding the boundaries of MRO far beyond wrench turning. And with declining aircraft sales, OEMs that formerly ceded large segments of aftermarket services to third-party companies are increasing their involvement in the MRO arena. These trends are on full view here in Dallas at Heli-Expo.

With parts traceability and documentation so critical in the aftermarket, MRO providers are seeking solutions to improve and reduce the costs of record keeping. Freedom Aero Services of Lincoln, California (Booth No. 1120), which repairs electrical accessories and instruments for turbine-powered helicopters, announced it has received FAA authorization to apply digital signatures to work orders and store maintenance records digitally.

“The approved procedures improve our efficiency and reduce our consumption of paper products,” said Kevin Sherman, Freedom’s QA Manager. “We are a small company, but take pride in our use of advanced technology throughout our operations, which now includes record keeping.”

Operators are using high-tech tools to reduce MRO costs. RLC, the largest privately held helicopter operator in the Gulf of Mexico, is using software from San Diego-based Component Control (Booth No. 7321) to implement trend-based preventive maintenance programs. “This real-time information enables us to identify maintenance trends and options, increasing our overall fleet efficiency and allowing us to quickly and accurately respond to our customers,” said Joyce Cornett, RLC’s inventory systems manager.

Meanwhile, OEMs are buying or partnering with MRO providers, working to fend off competition from aftermarket competitors like PMA parts providers.

Last year Eurocopter (Booth No. 1917) bought global MRO services provider Vector Aerospace (Booth No. 7139), an acquisition Eurocopter president and CEO Lutz Bertling called “a major milestone” at Eurocopter’s annual Heli-Expo press conference, describing Vector as “one of the key players in helicopter maintenance,”

Summit Aviation of Middletown, Delaware (Booth No. 8051), which provides aircraft and engine maintenance on Bell, Boeing, Eurocopter, MD and Sikorsky helicopters, announced at the show a long-term agreement with Sikorsky Global Helicopters (Booth No. 6148) that includes aftermarket support for the Sikorsky-owned Schweizer 300 C helicopter line.

Bell Helicopter (Booth No. 9846) announced here a new torsion tension (TT) strap for Bell 206-series helicopters with a calendar life extension to 36 (from 24) months, on the heels of aftermarket provider Airwolf Aerospace (Booth No. 10243) announcing the expanded availability of its recently PMA-approved, and lower-cost 24-calendar-month TT Strap for the same Bell model.

Operators’ growing options for MRO products and services make customer service more critical to providers’ success than ever.

Here at Heli-Expo, Standard Aero Helicopter Programs (Booth No. 9446) is touting its No. 1 rating in customer satisfaction, based on data from independent market research firm Ducker Worldwide. Survey results indicate that more than 98 percent of customers who used StandardAero in 2011 would recommend their service to others. But more than just thumping its chest, StandardAero analyzes the survey results and uses the data to initiate corrective actions where necessary.