More than just an aircraft MRO specialist, Dublin Aerospace excels in the people-driven elements and the warmth its customer relationships provide. In a Q&A session, company head of landing gear services, Joe Daly reveals more.
Dublin Aerospace is one of the world’s leading providers of aerospace MRO services with capabilities in APU repair & overhaul, base maintenance, IDG repair & overhaul, and landing gear repair & overhaul.
Founded in 2009 and based out of Dublin Airport, Dublin Aerospace operates a four-bay Base Maintenance facility that can presently handle approximately 70 aircraft per annum (A320, A330, 737 families), an APU overhaul centre that can handle 200 APUs a year. Based in the UK, Exeter Aerospace, offers base maintenance services across six hangar bays on the ATR, DHC-8, and Embraer ERJ families.
Dublin Aerospace’s state-of-the-art landing gear facility is based in Ashbourne, 15km from Dublin Airport, and its development is a result of a €12 million investment supported by the Irish Government, through its agency Enterprise Ireland, and Dublin Aerospace shareholders.
The facility provides maintenance on aircraft landing gear, specialising in Airbus A320 and Boeing B737 landing gear overhaul and spread across a 70,000ft2 area. There is the capacity for up to 350 overhauls per year at this new location. With four new electroplating lines, light and heavy machine shops, dedicated inspection and NDT centres - in addition to cleaning and assembly shops - this facility can accomplish all the tasks required for a complete overhaul under the one roof. In November, 2021, Dublin Aerospace announced that William Flaherty had been appointed to the position of CEO of the Dublin Aerospace Group with immediate effect.
Q) Firstly, what are the types of demands placed on your company by today’s customers?
Price and quality are a given, but they have to be consistently delivered to our customers. Dublin Aerospace excels on the people-driven elements, the warmth of our interactions and the relationships we develop across the customers’ engineering, technical, operations, logistics and financial functions. We find that customers really value the experience and operational understanding we bring to the table in support of their assets, when they are in our care. We are nimble and flexible on input, but laser-focused on turn-time and overall cost to the customer.
Q) What are the current design challenges facing the landing gear MRO sector?
I see three distinct areas. Firstly, we are focused on the A320/B737 families. The landing gear OEMs have designed fantastic products – very robust and durable, with high levels of serviceability. These are very large target markets that have recovered to post-pandemic levels of activities in many markets. For us, the immediate challenge is to scale-up to meet the wave of deferred-work that has returned to the market - which I have no doubt that we will succeed and deliver to the highest of standards.
Secondly, we very clearly see the difference where line maintenance (and recently long-term preservation) was effective and where it was less so in maintaining the integrity of the landing gear. I’d like to see if there is any way to enhance the understanding of the value of routine preventive maintenance in the industry.
Thirdly, and looking longer-term, our industry will eventually have to move away from the heavy reliance on chromium and cadmium as the preferred electroplating material, so I expect that there will be a move to more environmentally-friendly materials and/or processes to protect the gear components.
Q) How do your systems tie in with the final assembly of the aircraft? How are parts installed and control systems repaired/tested?
Landing gear and airframes have different service lives, differing major maintenance intervals and also separate MRO providers. Dublin Aerospace performs pressure tests and function tests as part of the overhaul, then ships overhauled gear to airframe MROs for installation where the operators typically try to integrate the gear and airframe during major checks. Refitting and the critical on-wing testing and release-to-service is carried out by the airframe MRO team as part of the airframe event.
Q) If applicable, how do you tackle the MRO machining of such large components, such as those used for landing gear systems?
There are many different metals, alloys, and fluids used in the manufacturing and maintenance of landing gear, selected for the specific characteristics required of the parts and their function. The detailed physical inspection and non-destructive testing (NDT) processes are the key elements of the overhaul of landing gear and are designed to identify any problems on the gear. We follow standardised processes to remove defects such as corrosion or cracking.
Purpose-designed large surface grinders, borers or milling machines are used for repairing large components. We recently installed a large surface grinder from AZ spa in Italy, specifically for the repair of large chrome-plated and high-strength steel parts. The geometry of the large parts requires specialised tools and jigs to clamp and work over the large surfaces or to achieve the long-reach required to work on the internal surfaces of main fittings, as an example.
Q) How do you know when it’s time to replace – and not repair?
Some defects in major components will require immediate replacement. Many others require knowledge of the OEM manuals and of the customers specification and Beyond Economic Replacement (BER) cost limits. It’s quite common to have contracts stating a BER limit of 70-80% of the cost of a new replacement part. We strive to keep the replacement costs at a minimum. However, experience ultimately determines when the repair versus replace decision is made.
Q) Do you find the current European aerospace industry an easy industry in which to do business?
I wouldn’t limit the scope to the European industry. The OEMs are largely American or European, however our customers and competitors are worldwide. This presents the full suite of challenges: constantly moving exchange rates, shipping and logistics costs, differing time zones, staffing. Customers have always operated in different markets and market segments, so we’re well able to cope with these challenges and serve our customers at the highest of standards.
The Covid-19 pandemic is still rolling around in certain markets and continues to have a major impact on aviation and their operations. This is just the latest significant challenge to this industry. As always, we have to be nimble and very responsive to our customers and stay alert to the demands of the ever-changing markets.
Q) What differentiates your company from the competition and why should a customer use you over your nearest rival?
We are focused on providing cost-competitive support to our customers. Particularly now when many airlines have restarted services and are quickly ramping-up their operations, they want support for back-to-birth record review, technical support and advice, a fast engineering response and very proactive supply chains for components. We find that our customers recognise the value of the continuity and stability we have been able to provide throughout the crisis. Our partnerships with the OEMs and our wider supply chain are invaluable to airlines in ensuring a smooth restart and rapid build-out of their operations.
As a home-grown Irish business, we compete on the global stage and we’re proud to say we have been successful - thanks to the experience, ability and work ethic of our great team.
Q) Lastly, what do you feel are the most important assets of a company?
The most important aspect of a company is by far its team. Without a strong team behind a successful business, you’re left with a business - minus the success. We operate in a globally competitive sector where having the right talent, skills, and attitude is crucial. We pride ourselves on being a learning and training organisation. With over 100 young men and women in training at any time we have ambitious plans to increase this number in the near future. And just as the team is learning, we’re constantly reviewing our operations and processes to develop and improve the company's offering to our customers.