Air France KLM touts MRO, VIP cabin skills
Air France Industries KLM Engineering & Maintenance (AFI KLM E&M), the maintenance branch of the airline group, is here at the Dubai Air Show (Stand W420) promoting AMES, its local joint venture with nacelle manufacturer Aircelle, as well as the services it offers in engine and component repair and VIP cabin completion. The Middle East and Africa account for 25 percent of the company’s revenues, and this income, for the region alone, has increased by 25 percent in 2011 over 2010.
According to senior vice president commercial Fabrice Defrance, AMES provides local customers–including Emirates, Qatar Airways and Saudi Arabian Airlines–with convenient proximity for nacelle repair service. “We hope to add Etihad,” Defrance said. The nacelle maintenance facility is located in the Jebel Ali free zone near the location of Dubai’s a-building Al Maktoum International Airport.
“AFI KLM E&M has not had many joint ventures with OEMs, but this time we determined that it made sense,” Defrance told AIN. AMES provides support for nacelles Rolls-Royce’s Trent family, General Electric’s GE90 and CFM International’s CFM56-5 and -7. The first two types are those expected to generate most activity, since relatively few narrowbodies (the kind of aircraft that CFM56s power) operate in the region.
More generally, AMES’s growth is expected to be very gradual. “Today’s nacelles are more reliable than those that entered service ten years ago,” Defrance said, adding that, generally speaking, the Middle East airliner fleet is relatively young compared with those of other parts of the world.
The company’s workshops were opened in March 2010, and engineers started training with Air France subcontracted work. The first delivery for an AMES customer (an overhauled thrust reverser) occurred in August 2010. Today, AMES employs about 15 people.
Most of the MRO work for the engines themselves is done in Paris and Amsterdam (respectively, the main bases of Air France and KLM). Middle Eastern and African customers include Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Gulf Air and Royal Jordanian. The company offers maintenance, repair and overhaul for CFM56s, GE90s and General Electric CF6-80E1s.
Component work, too, currently is mainly performed in Europe. Customers include Saudia Airlines, Royal Jordanian, Middle East Airlines and Emirates. Air France is looking for ways to have some engine and component repair done in the region, a goal could be fulfilled by establishing Saudia Airlines as an industrial partner, but there are other options in the region, such as the Mubadala group’s MRO subsidiary Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies, which already has an engine MRO alliance with General Electric and Engine Alliance.
Another product line that AFI KLM E&M is endeavoring to develop is the small but lucrative VIP cabin installations. “We already have installed about 10 VIP cabins in Airbuses of various types,” Defrance said. In addition, the company has sold and installed several examples of a quick-change kit it introduced last year. Available for any Boeing or Airbus airliner, the conversion kit enables, for example, a scheduled carrier to temporarily upgrade a section of the cabin to a VIP standard so it could be chartered out for government or head-of-state service.
But the company is still seeking full-green completion projects for both Boeing Business Jets and Airbus ACJs. It is already a Boeing-authorized completion center for BBJs, so AFI KLM E&M hopes this will help in this quest. The situation is trickier on the ACJs, as obtaining an equivalent status from Airbus takes a long time. “Airbus sees us as a competitor,” Defrance said. Still, he is optimistic that the company will have success in some ongoing tenders where it has been shortlisted for both ACJ and BBJ completions.
AFI KLM E&M employs more than 100 in its aircraft modification business unit. It specializes both in airline cabin refurbishment and VIP modifications, and the Middle East accounts for more than half of the VIP business.