Revolutionizing Aircraft Maintenance in the Middle East: The MTU Maintenance Journey Unveiled by Poonam Chawla

In the dynamic landscape of aircraft maintenance in the Middle East, MTU Maintenance stands as a beacon of innovation and excellence. Poonam Chawla delves into the intricate tapestry of MTU Maintenance’s endeavors, shedding light on their pioneering initiatives that are reshaping the industry.

The Middle East Aircraft MRO Market size is expected to grow from USD 6.01 billion in 2023 to USD 6.94 billion by 2028, at a CAGR of 2.91% during the forecast period (2023-2028), according to Mordor Intelligence.

The Middle East Aircraft MRO Market is driven by the increasing demand for new aircraft as part of the fleet expansion and modernization programs initiated by airlines operating in the region.

Besides, the increasing partnership between aircraft MRO providers is also expected to drive their technical capabilities, enabling them to service new-generation aircraft that are being procured by airlines.

Poonam Chawla, Associate Publisher of Aviation Guide, presents exclusive insights from Sami Ben-Kraiem, VP Sales Middle East and Southeast Asia, shedding light on the future of the MRO industry in the Middle East. Discover how MTU Maintenance strategically aligns itself to address the evolving demands of the thriving and dynamic MRO region in the Middle East.

What are the unique challenges and opportunities in the Middle East region when it comes to providing MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Over-haul) services?

The Middle East is what we call a harsh operating environment; the heat and sand tend to wear parts faster than in more moderate climates. As such, tailoring MRO solutions to these operators is key.

We monitor engines and their condition with our proprietary engine trend monitoring system to ensure the longest possible on wing time of the engines, but also to be aware of the condition of engines, to take them off-wing before any damage causes costly repairs.

It is a balancing act, and we are in permanent dialog with our customers. In contrast to many other monitoring systems, we can monitor multiple engine types, including for instance the V2500 and GE90, so are able to provide support across an airline’s entire fleet.

Furthermore, we provide a whole range of customized repair solutions, including proprietary high-tech repairs. Our solutions include CMAS (calcium-magnesium-aluminum silicates) Resistant Thermal Barrier Coating and our ERCOateco (erosion-resistant coating for HPC airfoils), which reduces scrap rates, improves the durability of the hardware, and reduces the SFC (fuel consumption) of the engines. Such re-pairs are a very cost-effective way to help operators combat high material costs and considerably increase engine on-wing times.

As an expert in Middle East aviation, could you please elaborate on the current market trends and demands for aircraft engine maintenance and services in the region, and how does MTU Maintenance adapt to align with these trends and meet customer needs effectively?

The Middle East region is key to us as some of our largest and long-term customers are based here.

And it is a fast-growing region in terms of fleet developments. We are currently serving about 20 airline customers as well as several business jet operators and lessors based here.

As the Middle Eastern region has an above average proportion of widebodies in the fleet, we expect most MRO growth on engines such as the GE90 Growth, especially as these engines become more mature and require flexible and more tailored solutions. Nonetheless, we have been seeing strong demand for narrowbody engine ser-vices and are experiencing an increase in CFM56-5B, CFM56-7B and V2500 shop visits from the region to our facilities in Hannover, Berlin and Zhuhai.

How has MTU Maintenance enhanced its capabilities in engine maintenance and technology over the past few years, and have there been any notable advancements in engine maintenance processes or materials during this time?

In 2021, MTU launched the revolutionary engine fleet management software COR-TEX. CORTEX analyses technical, commercial and market data to generate tailor-made maintenance strategies for the customers. Using AI optimization algorithms and considering a multitude of variable parameters, such as utilization, operational conditions, parts availability, cost structures and engine health, the software produces cost-optimized MRO scenarios. These results are then discussed by our experts with each customer to find the best solution.

Data from our engine trend monitoring is also fed into the tool making the results and predictions we can then make all that more accurate. For a given contract period and type, the tool can forecast material needs, optimize life-limited part (LLP) management, comply with configuration and if applicable also end of lease requirements and can calculate the necessary spare engine requirements to cover the respective MRO intervals.

Could you highlight some of the most significant projects or achievements of MTU Maintenance in the Middle East region, and have there been any noteworthy partnerships or contracts that have contributed to the company’s success in the region?

In 2020, we opened a representative office in Dubai to increase our proximity to our customers and be able to respond to their needs even faster and more flexibly. This turned out to be a wise decision and helped us maintain our relationships and support our customers through the pandemic.

We are very committed to the region and look forward to further building on our success here so far – for instance through services on LEAP engines, for which we have already gained MRO experience and built-up capabilities.

Furthermore, we have considerably enhanced our engine lease and asset management service in the region, as the demand has been steadily increasing in the past 5 years.

MTU Aero Engines has been actively investing in innovative technologies, such as hybrid and electric engines. What impact do you foresee these developments having on the aerospace industry in the Middle East, and what opportunities do they create for MTU?

At MTU, we have a technology agenda that goes by the name Claire (this stands for clean air engine). It is a three-stage plan that sees the evolutionary development of the turbofan and the implementation of sustainable aviation fuels to reduce climate impact, as well as the development of revolutionary propulsion concepts such as the water-enhanced turbofan (WET) and the Flying Fuel Cell™ (FFC).

The WET concept is a gas turbine that combines energy recovery and wet combustion and can be applied in all thrust and power categories. When powered by SAF or hydrogen, it has the potential to reduce the climate impact of aircraft by about 80 percent by 2035. Whereas the FFC will covert hydrogen into electricity, initially for short-haul routes and regional air traffic. MTU is working on the entire ecosystem of this power train, including the electric motor, which is being developed by eMoSys, a 100% subsidiary of MTU Aero Engines. This power train emits only water and can reduce climate impact by 95 percent.

These developments will benefit the entire aviation industry in its endeavours to meet the Paris Agreement.

When it comes to the Middle East in particular, the region has the potential to play an enormous role in the generation of alternative energy and fuels and we see a lot of interest from our customers regarding, for instance, the generation and use of SAF. In fact, MTU offers SAF blends for engine testing after shop visits and has carried out test runs for customers both in this region and worldwide.

What is your outlook on the aerospace industry in the Middle East in the coming years, and how does MTU plan to position itself to meet the evolving needs and demands of the region effectively?

The Middle East has always been a key region for us and will remain so.

As mentioned above, we have strengthened our presence in the region with a representative office and will continue to build on both our existing relationships as well as working with new customers and partners.

The outlook for the region is very strong and its airline industry has emerged from the pandemic quickly and with higher load factors than other areas worldwide. IATA predicts a profit margin of 3.8% in 2023, the highest globally. It is our job at MTU to support these operators with flexible MRO solutions for their fleets so that they can continue to grow.

MTU Maintenance has over 40 years of experience in engine MRO and combines this expertise with digital solutions to achieve accurate and next level MRO support – such as comprehensive engine specific fleet planning to optimize the cost of ownership.

Our portfolio of over 30 engines from new generation to mature engines, enabling us to support airlines with their on-going fleet developments – providing cost effective and flexible phase out plans for older fleets and reliable maintenance on newer fleets. Our lease services also enable airlines to reduce their spare engine levels, which has been typically rather high in this region due to the harsh operating environment.  Our investments to increase capacity and repair capability in the MTU network, including throughout the pandemic, enables us to continue to offer this fast-growing market the MRO support it requires.