The engine's safety and the aircraft's physical state need to be secured for operations as per international aircraft standards. For this purpose, Aircraft Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) are done for the smooth and effective airworthiness of the plane to make it available to fly at any time.
Just like any manufacturing industry that operates on machinery requires regular maintenance, the aviation industry also emphasizes MRO for general maintenance, regular inspection of aircraft, routine checks, and solving minor troubleshooting done in-house at the airport itself. However, if any parts require servicing, the amount is removed and taken off the airport for proper functioning.
Need for MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul) in Aircraft
- Maintenance- The work of any aircraft gets interrupted if it's not maintained correctly, even when not in use. Hence, timely maintenance of the aircraft ensures it is operational every time.
- Repair- Aircraft are made up of combining many parts but if there is even a tiny dent in the aircraft or an engine failure as a fault in its making or any other minor issues, then repairing practice needs to be carried out at its earliest for its readiness to run the aircraft.
- Overhaul- A complete teardown can occur in the case of aircraft based on its usage and the duration of the number of rides it has taken.
Challenges in MRO
- Supply Chain Issues- The aviation industry had significant losses due to the pandemic and coronavirus outbreak. This has caused major concerns about the integration of the MRO value chain, and with the unavailability of many engine parts and components, operational activities came to a standstill. One of India’s most significant aircraft, Indigo, had stopped functioning nearly 35 aircraft for a week due to a supply chain issue.
- Huge Parking Space - For any maintenance or repair of the aircraft, a spare parking space is required, which increases the overall cost of carrying out the activities and the fixed operating cost too.
- Rising Material Costs- Fuel prices have been increasingly rising over the years, and there is no looking back on this. Fuel, the highest operating cost for an airline to fly, is a concern due to the low occupancy of seats by passengers. This makes it difficult for companies to cover the expenses occurring to cover up the MRO activities.
- High Labour Costs- For the MRO activities of inspection, repairs, and overhaul, expertise is required to understand and rectify the problem involving skilled labor. The rising demand for skilled labor is a concern that has become challenging in the aviation sector. Recently, it has been found that the airline industry is facing supply chain and non-supply chain labor issues in North America and Europe. However, post-relaxation of COVID-19, things are moving a little back to their place.
Technology to Its Help
The efficacy of aircraft is dependent on the MRO technologies used. Hence, to minimize a few of the challenges in the industry, certain technologies are in their initial phase to bypass the problems.
- Robotics technology - Digitisation has emerged in all avenues, and the aviation industry is also using technology that can place aircraft operations at a different level.
- Minimal Labor- The robotic technology can be used in a regular inspection to fix repairs, oiling if any is required in the parts, and many other activities it is directed to perform. There is specific robotic technology development in the process where the mechanical device can capture the photo of the part to be rectified and send it to the dealer where it can be done. This would also save on unnecessary transportation devices.
- AI Technology – Assisting the pilot to take control of the plane and run in autopilot mode is developing as a hot piece of technology while learning ways to handle the flight and make decisions during extreme weather conditions
- Drone Technology Development – Unmanned aerial vehicles (Drones) are helpful in the general inspection of aircraft to a bird control system that is significant for aircraft safety during take-off and landing. This drone’s deigning is so that it scares the birds away from the airport area. This makes it super effective in labor costs and operations.
With technological advancement and revamping through digitization, the aviation industry is expected to grow, with passengers opting for aircraft as a time-saving and convenient choice to travel anywhere. The global aircraft MRO market is expected to register a CAGR of 5% during the forecast period. Final Thoughts Challenges and threats are a part of every industry but challenge only make innovations, creations, and technology flourish to emerge out of a tricky situation. The MRO in aircraft is a critical factor for the aviation Industry, and the development of technology will make the sector boom massively.