Etihad Engineering looks to seal more third party business
Etihad Airways Engineering, the Middle East's largest MRO supplier, is hoping to seal another South American client building on its success with Chile's LATAM Group for which it's now completed five B787 C-Checks – the region's first for the aircraft type.
“We are in discussion with another South American customer and have reached a further agreement with LATAM for aircraft reconfiguration and repainting,” said Jeff Wilkinson, Senior Vice President Technical, Etihad Airways.(pictured left)
The talks come as Wilkinson, keen to dispel any “lingering perception we exist only to service Etihad” forecasts the company’s third party operations will account for 68% of its business by 2019. Third party work currently makes up 60% of the company’s business with direct Etihad work accounting for 30% and the remaining 10% coming from the Abu Dhabi carrier’s equity partners including airberlin, Alitalia, Air Seychelles and Jet Airways.
Now in the second year of its 10-year business plan, Wilkinson said the company will notch up double digit growth this year having expanded its offering with the opening of a new landing gear facility last January. The development plan focusses on the company being a centre of excellence for new generation aircraft including the A350, A380 and B787.
“We are also developing more value-added services like Part21J major design and modifications, component support and consulting services,” he said.
Wilkinson said the company will also open a state-of-the-art regional technical training centre by the end of 2017 with its additional classroom capacity allowing the company to increase its third party offering to include level 3, engine and Part 145 training. “We will be able to cater to the industry’s other issue which is the need to retrain some of the more experienced engineers to work on the new generation of aircraft which feature more advanced systems and composite materials,” said Wilkinson.
The company’s training centre features the Boeing Desk Top Simulator for B787 and the Airbus Competency Trainer system. “This latest technology brings the aircraft into the classroom. Not only is this just more effective, it also makes our training programmes come to life, dispensing with traditional ‘chalk and talk’ which younger folk see as boring,” explains Wilkinson.
The company’s current classroom capacity is, according to Wilkinson “flat out” with double training shifts “seven days a week.”
“More than 9000 training days were delivered last year at the Training Centre through 865 courses which included aircraft type courses, non-aircraft type courses and regulatory courses.”
Wilkinson says the company is “going against the trend” and feeling no impact from the industry’s much vaunted human capital shortfall. A recent overseas recruitment drive has delivered a “waiting list” of 70 engineers from the UK and Australia wanting to join the company, which is also bucking the industry’s staff retention trend. “We have the lowest attrition rate in the industry because we keep our people interested and engaged. We have found that the iPad generation can be attracted into engineering if we give them exciting hands on experiences.”
Committed to developing national talent, the company now numbers 313 Emiratis among its current trainee count of 377. The trainees are locked into a two year, post qualification service agreement through a bonding policy to offset training investment and Emiratis who have graduated are now mentoring their compatriot trainees.
Wilkinson said Etihad’s “significant and well-established” training programme is “among the best in the world” and is providing the company with a pipeline of talented engineers trained to exacting standards.
Wilkinson admits the in-source, out-source stance of many airlines is cyclical but does not apply to the Gulf’s big three. “We are here to stay,” he said and warned that the in-source trend will impact independent MROs and force consolidation with the industry.
“Consolidation is coming,” he says. “The mega investment needed to service the new generation fleets will be an influencing factor and this is where we see ourselves fitting. We have tooled up to service our own airline, we understand the aircraft because we fly them and can therefore provide a trusted service.”