DALLAS — Earlier this week in Madrid, Aero-Engines Europe held an event to showcase the latest developments in the field of aircraft engines and their maintenance. Iberia Maintenance, the maintenance arm of Iberia (IB), hosted the event at its facility in La Munoza. This facility aims to become a comprehensive Aviation Eco-tech hub, focusing on narrowbody engines, establishing heavy maintenance centers, and creating new component shops.
Currently, Iberia Maintenance has the capability to work on the IAE V2500, CFM56, and Rolls Royce RB-211 engines. However, they are also preparing to expand their capabilities by adding Pratt & Whitney’s Geared Turbofan (GTF) engines to their portfolio. Maria Guilarte Polanco, the Transformation Director at Iberia Maintenance, provides an overview of the ongoing transformation in an interview with Airways.
SG: Being host to AeroEngines is a big advantage for Iberia Maintenance. What are you able to bring to the attendees with this opportunity?
MG: We really want to show them our technical experience and our commitment to quality and safety, which are our first and foremost priorities. Also, with our innovations in engine piece part repairs and our customer service, we maintain a very close relationship with our customers, we speak to them on a daily basis. Good communication is key. If we anticipate any problem or delay, we communicate effectively.
Something we are really looking forward to is showing all the above-mentioned points through a visit to our facility, in particular the engine shop and test bench. Not often do you get the opportunity to conduct this; we’ve opened our doors to more than 100 people. We want to take maximum advantage of this opportunity.
We have a three-year plan ranging from digital transformation, financial robustness, training, sustainability and also the engineering front: improving TATs, lead times, getting in newer, and adding more capabilities.Maria Guilarte Polanco
In time, you will move from the older CAE and V2500 engines to the LEAP and GTF. But what about the Rolls Royce RB-211? How much longer will you service those engines?
At this moment, we are focusing on introducing the new engines in our shop, specifically the LEAP and GTF. This is a unique time as the legacy engines and the new ones coexist. We are getting ready for the future while servicing the current needs of the market. That’s why we are one of the three shops in the world that still work on the RB-211; it’s an engine at the end of its life but still used by the customer. Anyway, we will do an organized transition once the right time comes. I
We have customers for this engine and have worked with them for a long time, so what will they do if we stop? We don’t want to abandon them; we have the business part and also the human and social responsibility in our operations.
Irrespective of the RB-211, we will focus on getting the capability for the GTF engine and continue working on the LEAP engines because this is the future.Maria Guilarte Polanco
Would you be considering venturing into wide-body aircraft engines?
Not for the moment. We will continue to focus on the narrow-body fleet for the time being, but we don’t rule out the possibility of repairing these aircraft if it makes sense with our current or future parts repair capabilities. But when we have our eco-tech hub set up, we might look into this.
Many think that we are very focused on the IAG group of airlines, but it’s very different in reality. Right now, at the engine shop, 80% come from third parties and 20% from IAG Group; this was 70-30 two years ago.Maria Guilarte Polanco
There are numerous complaints from airlines all over the globe about delays, a lack of spare parts, and maintenance-related issues. How are you dealing with your clients, and how can the industry as a whole get to a place to overcome this?
We have good relationships with our customers, built on good communication. This principle really works well for us and our customers to mitigate any delays or issues. We know delays are absolutely critical for airlines. It’s been difficult during the pandemic, and we’re trying to manage our vendors, working closely with our inventory of brand-new parts as well as used parts. We see the situation improving.
We know there are issues all over; they’re there, but we are so focused on our business and cases that I don’t have a detailed global perspective on the others’ progress.
Wouldn’t you say one key aspect to mitigating any such issues beyond material shortages or whatever is having a strong pool of trained and ready talent?
Absolutely. I want to point out that the need for skilled people is crucial to avoid such delays, and as part of our transformation program, we’re protected thanks to our training center. If we need people, we make sure to have them ready and they are trained by us.
We also want to further improve our training center and be able to train employees better. We work with local partner high schools in Madrid too. We hired over 200 people in the past two years and 40% were from an apprenticeship.
Featured image: Iberia Maintenance facility. Photo: Siddharth Ganesh/Airways