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MRO - Going Green&

MRO - special report

As an integral part of the aviation industry today, Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) companies are actively involved in environmental improvement.

There are two aspects to their work. The first is improving the environmental performance of client aircraft. This covers the fuel range of maintenance work as every component can affect operations, fuel burn and, hence, CO2 output.

MRO must optimize performance in a number of areas ranging from auxiliary power unit utilization to engines and fuel consumption monitoring. No stone can be left unturned and even minor corrective actions like spoiler/flap adjustments have to be understood in terms of environmental mitigation as well as safety.

Secondly, MRO companies are looking to reduce their own environmental impact through optimized work procedures. This can include better hydraulic system maintenance to avoid hydraulic leakages and enhanced waste management procedures.
“We also carefully consider the need for engine tests (run ups) to reduce emissions and noise,” says Juergen Haacker, Chief Operating Officer of Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies (ADAT). “ADAT has developed an environmental charter, which includes these types of initiatives. We are even providing shuttle services for our employees, thus reducing the CO2 impact from commuting.”

And there are signs of even better things to come. In the US, for example, Shangri-La Construction has completed what has been described as the greenest aviation facility in the world. At a cost of approximately $17 million, Hangar 25 at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California, has achieved the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design Platinum rating, the highest certification awarded.

Large enough to accommodate a Boeing 757, 737 and two Gulfstream jets at the same time, Hangar 25’s features include a solar-powered roof system that supplies at least 110% of all necessary power needs—so there are no electricity bills. In fact, it is estimated that it will push around 400,000 kWh of renewable energy back to the grid every year. Operating costs for the hangar are estimated at just $0.02 per square foot compared to a more traditional $0.20.

Back to the future

Aircraft and engine retrofits are playing an increasingly important role in airline operation strategies. Reduced emissions, lower fuel burn, cheaper maintenance costs and increased reliability are all on offer with the correct modification.

Yet there are also challenges to overcome. For example, there is currently a limited supply of aircraft winglets, and airlines are forced to wait for the back order to clear. “It also takes time to schedule the work,” adds Chris Markou, IATA Assistant Director of Engineering and Environment.

“Usually it will be done when the aircraft is going through a major maintenance check. Some aircraft require structural strengthening before winglets installed and this takes time.”

Winglets are also fuel-price sensitive. As the fuel price goes up, so can the cost of a winglet. $1 million is a ballpark figure—roughly the average spent on engine modifications, although this depends heavily on engine types and the work involved.

Markou stresses a business case always needs to be put forward. For instance, winglets may provide little benefit on short-haul routes as the additional weight negates fuel savings.

The retrofit market is likely to be active for some time. And even as new engines and wings come of age, there will likely be new techniques to further enhance operational capability.

Other articles from MRO special report:


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