‘We have developed processes to minimalise cost & improve turnaround time’

SriLankan Airlines is on track to expand its MRO capabilities to Boeing operators. Shevantha Weerasekera, Head of Engineering SriLankan Airlines in an interaction with Disha Shah Ghosh spoke about expansion of their MRO network to the larger Middle East region while exploring opportunities in South Asia.

Q. SriLankan Airlines has established itself at the Colombo Airport for its engineering services. Tell us about some of your latest MRO innovations?
SriLankan Airlines has been a long-established player at the Colombo Airport (CMB) for line maintenance, base maintenance, component repair/overhaul, and engineering services. In addition, we have line maintenance stations in Malé – Maldives, Chennai – India, and Mattala – Sri Lanka. We support over 40 major airlines; some have been with us for over 15 years. In the recent past, we have further developed our base maintenance and component maintenance offering. We have developed processes to minimalise cost and improve turnaround time. We have also developed competencies for major cabin modifications and the conversion of passenger aircraft to cargo freighters.

Q. Which countries and airlines are your key clients in South Asia for providing MRO services in the region?
We have customer airlines from the EU, Middle East, Asia, and the Far East. We have just entered into an MoU with Boeing to develop B737 maintenance capability. Thus, we are now looking to extend our reach to Boeing operators in the region as well.

Q. How does SriLankan Airlines Engineering complement the flag carrier in terms of offering leading cutting-edge technology?
By offering maintenance services to customer airlines, we bring in ancillary revenue to the airline, which facilitates the bottom line. In the recent past, we have converted and approved an A330 aircraft to carry cargo on the upper deck. In addition, we have also executed a trim and finish upgrade for our cabin successfully. The engineering and maintenance task was managed in-house, resulting in significant cost benefits to the airline.
We are also working on multiple projects to enhance our maintenance programme, right-size our inventory and digitize key processes. We are working with industry leaders on data analytics and additive manufacturing. Moreover, we are working with local and foreign universities to develop new products and processes. All these initiatives will have significant benefits to the airline.

Q. Enumerate on your global expansion plans, especially in terms of opening line maintenance stations overseas.
The line maintenance side of the business has always delivered strong financial results – even during reduced operations due to the coronavirus pandemic. We have a mature line maintenance team with approvals to certify all Airbus and Boeing aircraft types, including the A350 and B787. Expanding to Asia and the Middle East is the next logical step. We are cautious – but will act fast and establish stations when travel resumes.

Q. In terms of third-party maintenance, which markets are on your radar?
For the narrow body market (A320 / A320 / B737) we will focus on India for sure. We are confident about attracting customers from other Asian countries and the Middle East as well due to our cost structure and reputation for quality. In terms of the wide-body market like A330 aircraft and possibly tapping into the A350/B777/B787 market shortly, we have opportunities spanning across Europe to the Far East. We have an EASA part 145 approval and multiple approvals from national authorities to facilitate maintenance activities. Thus, we can confidently tap into a wide market.

Q. Any plans for MoUs or partnerships for expanding your MRO operations?

Definitely! This is the way forward. Like I said before, we just signed an MoU with Boeing for airframe and component maintenance and Avensis Aviation for EASA STC (supplemental type certificate) approved cargo conversions. While seeing significant opportunities with both these parties, we have a few other discussions at a very mature stage which will be announced shortly. However, we are open to discuss and explore opportunities with other airlines, OEMs, or any interested party.

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