Air Transport World

Airline mergers shrink customer base for independent shops like Aviall. (aircraft engine maintenance firms)

Airline mergers shrink customer base for independent shops like Aviall

These are somewhat uncertain times for independent engine overhaul/ repair shops like Dallas-based Aviall, Inc. As mergers and acquisitions shrink the ranks of the airlines and risk capital for prospective start-up carriers becomes harder to find, the repair agencies are faced with the loss of some of their best customers--the small and medium-size airlines who contract out some or all of their engine and accessory work. The question is, will this work now be moved into the shops of the major carriers? Will Continental take over People Express' engine work, American take over AirCal's, and so on?

R. Frank Leftwich, group VP of Aviall's airline operation, argues they won't, or at least shouldn't. As the megacarriers continue to add aircraft to their fleets, they will need whatever free overhaul/repair capacity they have just to handle the new planes, he reasons, and it would cost them more to add capacity or buy new tooling than to contract some work out. This is especially true if the acquired airline operates different equipment than its new parent. The same reasoning applies to commuter/ regional airlines who are moving up to larger aircraft, and to recent start-ups. They have enough to keep their minds occupied without the worry of setting up an engine overhaul operation, he says.

Reliable service, competitive prices

Leftwich is reasonably confident--but his fingers are crossed--that if the independent agencies deliver high value, that is, top quality and reliable service at competitive prices, they will thrive. And he is certain--this time his fingers are not crossed--that Aviall is one place where the airlines can get this kind of value. A walk by ATW through the company's well-equipped shops in Dallas and interviews with top executives tend to support Leftwich's view.

Last year about this time, Aviall celebrated its 50th year in the aviation industry. But although the company is now the world's largest independent repairer and rebuilder of aircraft turbine engines, and the largest worldwide distributor of new aviation parts and supplies, it would be a fruitless mission to look for its name in the annals of even ten years ago. …

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