More than just an aircraft MRO specialist, Dublin Aerospace excels in the people-oriented elements and warmth that its customer relationships provide. In a Q&A session, Landing Gear Services company chief Joe Daly reveals more.
Dublin Aerospace is one of the world’s leading providers of aerospace MRO services with capabilities for APU repair and overhaul, base maintenance, IDG repair and overhaul and landing gear repair and overhaul .
Founded in 2009 and based at Dublin Airport, Dublin Aerospace operates a four-bay base maintenance facility which can currently handle around 70 aircraft per year (A320, A330, 737 Family), an APU overhaul facility which can handle 200 APUs per year. Based in the UK, Exeter Aerospace offers basic maintenance services in 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 the result of a €12 million investment backed by the Irish Government, through its agency Enterprise Ireland, and the shareholders of Dublin Aerospace.
The facility provides aircraft landing gear maintenance, specializing in Airbus A320 and Boeing B737 landing gear overhauls and spans 70,000 feet2 region. It is possible to carry out up to 350 revisions per year on this new site. With four new electroplating lines, light and heavy machine shops, dedicated inspection and NDT centers – in addition to cleaning and assembly shops – this facility can accomplish all the tasks required for a complete overhaul under the same roof. In November 2021, Dublin Aerospace announced that William Flaherty had been appointed as CEO of Dublin Aerospace Group with immediate effect.
Q) First, what are the types of demands placed on your business by customers today?
Price and quality are a given, but they must be consistently delivered to our customers. Dublin Aerospace excels in people-oriented elements, the warmth of our interactions and the relationships we develop across engineering, technical, operational, logistics and customer finance functions. We find that clients really appreciate the experience and operational understanding we bring to the table to support their assets, while they are in our care. We are nimble and flexible on input, but focus on turnaround time and overall cost to the client.
Q) What are the current design challenges facing the landing gear MRO industry?
I see three distinct areas. First, we focus on the A320/B737 families. Landing gear OEMs have produced fantastic products – very robust and durable, with high levels of serviceability. These are very large target markets that have returned to post-pandemic levels of activity in many markets. For us, the immediate challenge is to scale up to meet the wave of backlogs that have returned to the market – which I have no doubt we will succeed and deliver to the highest standards.
Second, you can 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 would like to see if there is a way to improve the understanding of the value of routine preventative maintenance in the industry.
Third, and in the longer term, our industry will eventually have to move away from a heavy reliance on chromium and cadmium as the preferred electroplating material, so I expect there will be a move towards materials and /or more respectful processes to protect the components of the gear.
Q) How do your systems relate to the final assembly of the aircraft? How are parts installed and control systems repaired/tested?
Landing gear and airframes have different lifespans, different major maintenance intervals, and different MRO vendors. Dublin Aerospace performs pressure testing and function testing as part of the overhaul and then ships the overhauled equipment to the airframe MROs for installation where operators typically try to integrate the equipment and airframe during major checks. The refitting, critical tests on the wing and return to service are carried out by the airframe MRO team as part of the airframe event.
Q) If so, how do you approach MRO machining of such large components, such as those used for landing gear?
There are many different metals, alloys and fluids used in the manufacture and maintenance of landing gear, selected for the specific characteristics required of the parts and their function. Detailed physical inspection and non-destructive testing (NDT) processes are the key elements of landing gear overhaul and are designed to identify any issues on the gear. We follow standardized processes to eliminate defects such as corrosion or cracking.
Large surface grinders, boring machines or specially designed milling machines are used to repair large components. We recently installed a large surface grinder from AZ spa in Italy, specifically for the repair of large chrome and high tensile steel parts. The geometry of large parts requires specialized tools and jigs to clamp and work on large surfaces or to achieve the long reach needed to work on the internal surfaces of major fittings, for example.
Q) How do you know it’s time to replace – not repair?
Some faults in major components will require immediate replacement. Many others require knowledge of OEM manuals and customer specifications and cost limits beyond economic replacement (BER). It is quite common to have contracts stating a BER limit of 70-80% of the cost of a new spare part. We strive to keep replacement costs to a minimum. However, experience ultimately determines when the decision to repair or replace is made.
Q) Do you find the current European aerospace industry an easy industry to do business in?
I would not limit the scope to European industry. OEMs are largely American or European, but our customers and competitors are all over the world. This presents a whole host of challenges: constantly changing exchange rates, shipping and logistics costs, different time zones, staff. Clients have always operated in different markets and market segments, so we are fully capable of meeting these challenges and serving our clients to the highest standards.
The Covid-19 pandemic is still raging in some markets and continues to have a major impact on aviation and its operations. This is just the latest major challenge for this industry. As always, we must be nimble and very responsive to our customers and remain attentive to the demands of ever-changing markets.
Q) What sets your business apart from the competition and why should a customer use you over your nearest competitor?
We focus on providing competitively priced support to our customers. Particularly now that many airlines have restarted their services and are rapidly scaling up operations, they want assistance with the review of return to birth records, technical assistance and advice, rapid technical response and supply chains very proactive about components. We are seeing our customers recognize the value of the continuity and stability we have been able to provide throughout the crisis. Our partnerships with OEMs and our wider supply chain are invaluable to airlines in ensuring a smooth restart and rapid set-up of their operations.
As a local Irish business, we compete on the global stage and are proud to say we have succeeded – thanks to the experience, ability and work ethic of our great team.
Q) Finally, what do you think are the most important assets of a company?
By far the most important aspect of a business is its team. Without a strong team behind a successful business, you end up with a business – minus the success. We operate in a globally competitive industry where having the right talent, the right skills and the right attitude is crucial. We pride ourselves on being a learning and training organization. With over 100 young men and women in training at any one time, we have ambitious plans to increase this number in the near future. And just as the team learns, we are constantly reviewing our operations and processes to develop and improve the company’s offering to our customers.