Airbus announced May 9th 2011 that it had signed a customized Flight Hour Services FHS contract with China Southern Airlines. The long-term agreement is in anticipation of the airline upcoming entry in service of 5 Airbus A380 scheduled to be delivered beginning in the second half of the year. Flight Hour Services contracts allow aircraft manufacturers to oversee and actively manage aircraft maintenance and the logistics involved in sourcing replacement components. This approach greatly benefits aircraft operators as it provides a fixed price risk management solution for increased aircraft availability implementing the industry’s best practices. This “insurance” contract primarily covers the sourcing and delivery of parts and components that are normally inventoried at the customer’s main operating base or at other operating sites. A time window for components delivery can vary from four hours to three days depending on the impact to flight operation.
From an operator point of view such contracts, because they articulate numerous services and products components from a network of multiple Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM), Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) specialists, logistics integrators and others, would rapidly compound stifling administrative overhead expenses as well as inefficiencies during execution. Often time the aircraft manufacturer become the sole entity capable of leveraging on its existing support and material logistics base, engineering expertise and insight of regulatory demands. Functioning as a a single contracting agent, the manufacturer can then integrate highly complex processes and transactions in order to deliver value to an airline flight operation. The FHS deliverable becomes a single point of contact available 24/7 for technical needs regarding high value operator specific items such as nacelles, landing gears, Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), cabin Line Replaceable Units (LRU), cargo loading system etc. Additionally contracting services can be tailored to an operator’s requirements and cover the performance of core maintenance activities as well as fulfilling mandated technical requirements documented through Airworthiness Directives, Service Bulletins and other documents.
As an example Spairliners Gmbh, the joint venture established by Air France Industries and Lufthansa Technik AG had began securing long term contracts for components service support for Airbus A380 since August 2010. By warehousing a ‘pool’ of more than 900 components at Air France and Lufthansa facilities located respectively in Paris Charles De Gaulle airport and Frankfurt, Spairliners was able to entice Airbus A380 operators like Air France and Lufthansa, but also Qantas which had traditionally maintained robust in-house components servicing infrastructure for its aircraft. The assumption is that ‘pooling’ components near airlines global hubs can sustain efficient and expedited dispatch of parts via passenger aircraft cargo hold. Spairliner provides Guaranteed Component Availability (GCA) with Door-To-Door logistics services. For instance, the Air France A380 F-HPJD that was stranded at New York JFK airport after sustaining wing damages during a ground collision with a Comair commuter plane on April 11th 2011 had its wing repaired allegedly through Spairliner Aircraft-On-Ground AOG processes (covered 24/7 including warranty management) prior to being ferried back to France on April 24th 2011. Altogether Spairliners is looking to provide long term components ‘insurance’ for up to 47 A380 aircraft due to be operated among the three airlines.