Eying a pickup in demand for helicopter fleet support in Latin America, JSSI is introducing its Sikorsky S-76 and S-92 airframe programs to the region during LABACE. The maintenance support specialist announced plans for the programs earlier this year for the S-92/S-92A and S-76 B/C/D and since has brought them to market. These programs can be bundled with existing contracts supporting auxiliary power units and engines. JSSI, which added S-92 engine coverage to its product portfolio in 2016, already has signed its first full tip-to-tail customer for the S-92.
Like most of JSSI's rotary-wing products, the airframe programs cover only parts—not the labor—since most helicopter fleet owners conduct their own maintenance, said Kevin Thomas, senior v-p, business development and strategic planning for JSSI. “When we first [developed] programs for the rotary-wing market, we introduced a model similar to fixed-wing,” Thomas said. But the uptake was not as strong on the rotary-wing programs. The reason: “the vast majority of helicopter operators were doing the work themselves,” he said, adding it made no sense for those operators to seek labor coverage.
But a need exists for parts support, and this has created a global demand, he added. “We’ve heard from operators it could take weeks and sometimes months to get a part, and that part may be required to make an aircraft airworthy,” Thomas said. JSSI designed the program to provide more flexibility and options for the operator, covering “pretty much every part on an airframe”—from structural items to avionics to blades—that has a value of $250 or more. In addition to the Sikorskys, JSSI has assembled airframe parts-only programs for a range of Leonardo, Bell, Airbus and MD Helicopters platforms.
These programs are providing a boost to JSSI’s business in Latin America. The year started relatively flat in the region, Thomas said, “but within the past couple of months, we’ve seen a major uptick in rotary-wing activity. Some of this is due to new programs that we made available to the market. Some of it just due to activity.”
Latin America is a critical market for its helicopter programs, he said. “The Latin American market remains one of the most active [rotary-wing] markets in the world in terms of utilization and deliveries.”
While deliveries on both the fixed-wing and rotary-wing side have been stagnant, “we are starting to see new opportunities. The S-92 and S-76 platforms have gained tremendous interest among JSSI’s prospect list.”
And despite the slow delivery activity, Thomas said he is encouraged that JSSI is capturing an increasing share of support contracts. With depressed sales prices, the used market has been far more active, he added. But with so many aircraft already under programs, these transactions tend to be more a transfer rather than new business.
The inquiries JSSI is getting on the fixed-wing side from Latin America have been coming from midsize to smaller-cabin jets, typically in the Embraer Phenom or Bombardier Learjet categories. “We’re not seeing a lot of large aircraft…that we do in the rest of the world,” Thomas said, adding that is more representative of the fleets in the region in general.
In addition an opportunity to showcase its new products, LABACE has become a strong turning point in the year for JSSI. “LABACE is the point in the year where we are able to begin solidifying a lot of the deals and relationships we were working on in the early part of the year,” Thomas said. “We do start to see more deals close in the second half of the year. We have a lot of fleet opportunities that are pending in the decision process.” Those fleet opportunities are mostly centered on the rotary-wing space.