What are the key trends in the Helicopter maintenance market in 2022?
At JSSI, we’ve seen the demand for VIP and emergency medical services (EMS) increasing of late, with S76s and AW109s for VIP services, and the five-bladed H145 and AW169 helicopters for EMS leading the way. One key indicator that the market is recovering is that there are more job opportunities being advertised for engineers in the aviation and helicopter market. However, here is where we also see challenges that will continue to impact this and the entire aviation industry. Current shortages of qualified staff may affect growth initially, but there is the potential for staffing to be rectified in the longer term, as companies begin to invest in training younger people by way of apprenticeship schemes and licensing. It is, therefore, more important than ever that we make good use of the increasing amount of aircraft maintenance data and intelligent tools available to the market. We’ve come to a point in the industry where instead of operating on tribal knowledge and overnight delivery, we have an opportunity to tap into years of historical information. A helicopter operator or an MRO can schedule and forecast inventory requirements and upcoming scheduled maintenance events based on facts and not educated guesses.
As the world grapples with the current energy crisis, we foresee an increase in the number of aircraft coming out of storage over the coming months to support the high demand for oil, gas, and offshore renewables, which will result in further demand for maintenance teams. This will have a ‘knock-on’ effect for overhaul and repair shops too, increasing the demand for their services. In the West, now that the supply chain effects of the pandemic and Brexit are slowly easing, output and efficiency from these shops and facilities will increase, cutting down on lead times for parts and
The upward trend in flight activity in North America, and indeed across the world, will drive helicopters into maintenance facilities to overhaul dynamic components, repair instruments or refinish rotor blades. Combined with an increase in aftermarket sales, I would expect MROs to be very busy in 2022 and 2023 with pre-purchase inspections and customizations for new owners. The other trend I can see is the use of drones for some historically helicopter-dependent operations. While I don’t think this is going to happen in the next couple of years, it’s something we need to be aware of.
JSSI is best known as the leading independent provider of Hourly Cost Maintenance programs for Business Aviation. Can you tell us more about your growing portfolio of services?
In 2021 we acquired SierraTrax and Traxxall, both leaders in aircraft maintenance tracking. We recently joined the solutions under one brand, called JSSI Maintenance Software which adds to our other complementary services: JSSI Maintenance Programs, JSSI Parts & Leasing, JSSI Conklin & de Decker, and JSSI Advisory Services. Traxxall provides business-to-business (B2B) centric software offerings for aircraft maintenance tracking, inventory management, and MRO operations across all sizes of operator or maintenance facilities. The sub-company provides solutions for all makes and models of business jets, turboprops, and helicopters. SierraTrax serves as our business-to-consumer (B2C) offering for maintenance tracking software for customers looking for a simpler feature set at a lower price point.
With more than 5,000 business aircraft supported by JSSI, Traxxall, and SierraTrax, the decision to align these maintenance products will enable us to significantly enhance the service we provide customers and position us to rapidly scale the business.
What services are available for helicopter operators?
Our portfolio of services can integrate to provide maintenance, operational, and financial support to helicopter operators and owners. No matter the helicopter, timely and efficient maintenance is vital. However, to avoid longer than necessary aircraft-on-ground (AOG) times, particularly with utilization increasing, maintaining a helicopter correctly is even more important to pay attention to than ever before. JSSI’s financial tools help helicopter owners and operators around the world accurately predict their maintenance budget, year after year, without being impacted financially by unexpected helicopter maintenance costs.
How popular are the hourly cost maintenance programs for helicopter operators and especially in the Corporate/VIP segment?
Hourly cost maintenance programs are a growing market segment and a popular sector for us. This is particularly true for used aircraft, where the alternative may be a ‘buy-in’ option for maintenance from the OEM. Many owners will choose a maintenance program instead, as they do not require a set buy-in, but review the helicopter’s five-year forecast and price the airframe accordingly to what may be due in that period. With JSSI’s hourly cost maintenance programs, if something on the aircraft engine requires replacing, JSSI will cover a pro-rata share of that cost, depending on the life of the component and how long the helicopter engine has been on our program.
As demand for corporate/VIP travel increases, new owners and operators of helicopters will be looking for hourly cost maintenance program options for their helicopters, outside of OEMs.
Unlike most OEMs maintenance programs limited to their own components, JSSI can offer Tip-to-Tail all-inclusive maintenance programs covering airframe, engines, and APU.
Can you tell us the advantage of these programs, and how popular they are in the helicopter market?
One of the main benefits of JSSI’s trademarked Tip-to-Tail Program is that for one simple hourly rate, there is only one central contact that manages everything, rather than having to deal with multiple maintenance providers. By combining the JSSI Engine Program and Airframe Parts-Only Program, customers benefit from one point of contact for any maintenance needs they may have, and can even add mission-specific equipment to further tailor a program to their helicopter. In today’s environment, it is tough for helicopter operators to predict their maintenance budget, as the potential for an unexpected expense is extremely difficult to estimate on your own. This is where JSSI’s more than 30 years of experience comes into play. JSSI programs stabilize the maintenance budget, while the JSSI team of technical advisors acts as an advocate and advisor to the entire flight operation. These are popular for many helicopter operators who just want one maintenance invoice to pass on to their clients every month.