Air Carriers Speak Out About the Importance of Timely Service

“We have to hold our suppliers to the same standard that we hold ourselves to.”  Those were the words of Lance Applegate, the Director of Fleet Engineering and Programs for Delta Airlines.  Applegate explained that his customers expect flights to be on time, and they expect the same of their suppliers.

The airline panel had a strong focus on the importance of timely service and Turn Around Time (TAT) in support services.
Ahmad Zamany, the Vice President of Technical Operations for Copa Airlines explained that longer TAT leads to higher cost of ownership, so shorter TAT is at a premium.  Government regulations like import standards can increase TAT and impede success of a company and this is something that you see in some countries of Latin America.
Zamany noted that when choosing airframe MRO partners, Copa stays away from long ferries.  Long ferries cost time on TAT which is often not overcome by reduced costs of labor or other reduced costs.  Copa therefore seeks the closest partners for heavy maintenance.  
Copa’s philosophy is that they hold their business partners accountable and they expect their parents to hold them accountable.  He insisted that the airline must be accountable too, because sometimes delays are the airline’s fault due to paperwork issues or other issues within the airline’s control. In a partnership, he believes that the supplier should not be blamed for issues within the airline’s control.  
Zamany said that engines just are not the same sort of issue that they were, years ago.  Engines used to come off wing every 18 months and now they can stay on wing for up to 12 years.  This increased reliability has allowed his airline to focus on managing other relationships.  Component support, on the other hand is more of a challenge.  There is very little support in Latin America so much of Copa’s component repair is going to North America, which creates TAT challenges and also transportation cost challenges.
Zamany explained that there is no absolute standard when it comes to balancing time and cost.  There is a balancing formula.  Sometimes an extra two days TAT is acceptable when the price and quality are right.
Lance Applegate stressed that delivering to an expected turn-time is important because the airlines plan for the expected turn time so exceeding TAT expectations creates problems for the operator.  
Beth Medlen, the Virgnia America Director of Base Maintenance, points out that when TAT is decreased in an MRO facility, it benefits the air carrier but also means that the MRO is more profitable because it can increase throughput.  
New surplus parts as well as overhauled rotables are safe parts that can reduce MRO costs.  The audience asked “what role does surplus take in supporting the air carrier?”
Zamany said “If we just go to the OEM for everything, then we’re not gonna last very long.”  He explained that PMA and surplus parts are important parts of his fleet support strategy.  

About Jason Dickstein
Mr. Dickstein is the President of the Washington Aviation Group, a Washington, DC-based aviation law firm. He represents several aviation trade associations, including the Aviation Suppliers Association, the Aircraft Electronics Association, the Air Carrier Purchasing Conference, and the Modification and Replacement Parts Association. He also represents private clients drawn from the spectrum of the aviation industry.

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