Partners Across the Atlantic

Expanding airline business is creating maintenance partnership opportunities in North America and Europe.


Recently Belgium’s Sabena Technics acquired EADS Barfield, a U.S. company, in the service support and component repair and maintenance business. Christophe Bernardini, CEO of Sabena Technics, says, “Barfield’s expertise, its strong experience, and brand across North and South America, combined with Sabena Technics know-how as a former airline operator and leading MRO, reinforces our group’s service in this region of the world. (Our) pool of rotables and capabilities on regional aircraft types will strengthen Barfield’s service. Moreover, Barfield’s ground support equipment activity will strengthen the Sabena Technics offering. Barfield employs about 250 people in Miami, Phoenix, and Louisville. The acquisition “accelerates Sabena’s integration into the North and South American markets.”

Two-way street
Teaming is also happening in the opposite direction across the Atlantic. Boeing will supply GoldCare lifecycle support to Rolls-Royce for the UK company’s Trent 1000 TotalCare program. GoldCare provides repair and overhaul for 787 Dreamliner underwing rotables as an option on the Trent 1000.

More than 500 Trent 1000s have been ordered for the 787 and about 80 percent of all Trent customers since 2001 have selected TotalCare.

Also Boeing has signed up six airlines so far this year for its Airplane Health Management (AHM) service most of which are non-U.S.-based. In addition to the new Virgin Atlantic, Air Austral, Austrian Airlines, Emirates, TNT Airways, and an unnamed carrier have joined the program.

United Airlines has recently indicated that it is considering outsourcing its maintenance, and industry sources suggest that there is every chance that European companies will be involved. Air France/KLM already supports United in some spheres.

One of the most successful U.S. companies doing well in Europe and elsewhere outside America as well as within is AAR. Formed in 1951, the company specializes in the supply chain and MRO among other things. Large airline customers in Europe include, Air France, KLM, Alitalia, and Lufthansa. Headquartered in Wood Dale, IL, the company has about 4,000 employees and more than 40 locations around the world.

“AAR’s sales to commercial and defence customers in Europe grew 22 percent year over year and currently account for 18 percent of the company’s overall sales,” Timothy J. Romenesko, president and chief operating officer of AAR Corp., tells AMT. “We see significant opportunity for AAR in European markets as regional carriers become more prevalent and as new and existing commercial carriers and defence forces look to operate more efficiently and effectively.”

Quality and security
Some commentators in the United States have cast doubt on the ability of non-U.S. companies to perform work to the required standard, with the required security and the ability of the FAA, or other designated agency, to oversee them properly. While there will always be isolated incidents and examples of poor work and poor oversight, generally European standards are extremely high. The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority has long been regarded as the toughest aviation agency in the world and much of that has fed through into EASA.

Schmuck of LHT says, “We have a strong brand and a high reputation in the market. There are no doubts about our quality and integrity.”

The FAA is different from other country’s aviation authorities in that part of its mandate is to promote the business (certainly not so in European authorities). But sometimes the FAA can be a bit protectionist. One top level source says, “The legislation makes it difficult for foreign companies to get a strong foothold. The FAA says it will become easier for us, but it becomes more and more complicated.”

Europe is integrating socially, economically, and industrially. The United States of Europe is coming and if it can get Russia to behave and join in, Europe will be the other superpower in the world. Those people and companies best placed to take advantage of the metamorphosis are those who can see this inevitability and are positioning themselves accordingly.

We Recommend