African airlines turn to maintenance and repair for fresh revenue

Sunday October 21 2018

Kenya Airways Technical, which covers maintenance for Boeing and Embraer aircraft, already offers third-party services with line and heavy maintenance. PHOTO | AFP


Several African airlines have turned to maintenance and repair as a new revenue stream and a means of lowering operation costs.

Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways and Kenya Airways have in the past few months entered into arrangements with global aviation players to provide maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services on the continent. However, only the Ethiopian carrier is profitable.

The other two, while on the path to recovery according to their latest results, have been struggling with a drop in performance.

Last past week, Ethiopian Maintenance and Engineering Services, the largest aircraft maintenance centre on the continent, repaired a GEnx engine, which powers the Boeing 787, after Rolls-Royce and South African Airways Technical (SAAT) opened the continent’s first lease engine storage facility in Africa.

Kenya Airways Technical, which covers maintenance for Boeing and Embraer aircraft, already offers third-party services with line and heavy maintenance.

GEnx repair shops


Ethiopia entered the league of GEnx repair shops in the MRO global network of the engine maker, General Electric, opening it up to new revenue streams, especially for airlines flying the Dreamliner.

The Addis Ababa facility is the first MRO service provider in Africa with the capability to perform modular level repair on the GEnx, the latest GE engines which powers the most technologically advanced commercial aircraft, the Boeing 787.

The GEnx is the “workhorse engine of the 21st century” for medium and large-capacity, long-range aircraft, thanks to its tremendous improvements in efficiency and low cost of ownership, GE says.

“We are making additional investments to enhance our capability to overhaul the GEnx engine before mid-2019. This newly developed capability will enable us to overhaul the GEnx engines of not just our Boeing 787 fleet but also those of other airlines in the world,” said Ethiopian Airlines Group chief executive Tewolde GebreMariam.

Ethiopian Maintenance & Engineering Services performs airframe, engine, and component and line maintenance on the approval of Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority.

Its base maintenance facilities have Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) PART 145 Repair Station approval for the maintenance of the Boeing 737, 757, 767, 777, 787; the Bombadier Q400 and Airbus 350.

The Addis Ababa-based facility also holds the European Aviation Safety Agency Part 145 approval for both base and line maintenance for the Boeing 737NG, 757, 767 and 777.

The airline has MRO agreements with African airlines including Congo Airlines, Guinea Airlines and Asky Airlines.

MRO spending

According to ICF International, a global consulting and technology services firm, African airlines’ spending on MRO is expected to hit $6 billion by 2025 due to the expected influx of new aircraft that require new and more sophisticated technical skills and capabilities.

The African carriers spent $2.5 billion in 2016 for maintenance and repairs.

The Rolls-Royce lease engine storage facility in South Africa’s Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg is capable of storing a full range of Rolls-Royce engines to meet the requirements of airline and business jet customers based in or operating in Africa.

It can house every type of Trent engine, including the Trent 7,000, which will soon power the Airbus A330Neo.

Within Africa, Air Mauritius will be taking the first delivery of the A330, while Uganda Airlines, which has signed a memorandum for the delivery of two A330-800Neos in 2021, is being seen as a possible client for SAAT.

Rolls-Royce said it will be providing technical training to SAAT staff to enable them work on the engines in storage and provide inspection and on-wing services to Rolls-Royce customers on the continent.

“We have worked closely with South African Airways for a number of years, and we are delighted to be working with them on this initiative,” said Kevin Evans, a Rolls-Royce vice-president.

SAAT acting chief executive Wellington Nyuswa said the new arrangement is a revenue generating opportunity as well as a means to help the airline become “a world-class MRO company.”


Mid this year, Kenya Airways entered into an agreement with Boeing that will see the national carrier gain access to Boeing’s global network of parts and on-demand services, becoming the continent’s first airline to have access to Boeing’s Consumable and Expandable Service.

Boeing will provide parts and services to Kenya Airways’ Boeing fleet of 14 B737s and eight Dreamliners.

According to the agreement, which covers more than 18,700 parts, Boeing will deliver materials and services that will keep KQ’s fleet’s maintenance operations running at optimum efficiency during its five-year implementation period. KQ’s fleet requires up to 35,700 parts, which will be all included in the agreement in phases over the five year period.

Kenya Airways Technical, which covers maintenance for Boeing and Embraer aircraft, already offers third-party services with line and heavy maintenance.

It also provides a range of component repairs and overhaul while affording third party clients entry into service support, training and technical services for other airlines.

Its line station is at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, with base stations in Accra, Lusaka, Entebbe, Lagos, Lilongwe and Mombasa.