By Invitation | In-Country Support

MRO services play a big role in empowering India’s aerospace sector

Salil GupteSalil Gupte

India currently finds itself at the intersection of two compelling trends, both contributing to the surging demand for Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) services. Firstly, India’s defence sector is undergoing a transformative evolution, marked by substantial investments in new and upgraded military platforms, including notable aircraft like the C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) stands as one of the world’s largest air forces, boasting a fleet of over 1,700 aircraft. This has amplified the need for regular maintenance and repair to uphold their operational excellence and reliability, driving a growing demand for MRO services within the defence sector. Simultaneously, India’s civil aviation sector is experiencing an unprecedented surge in growth, with a projected doubling of air passengers over the next five years. This remarkable expansion, driven by a burgeoning middle class, urbanization, and increased connectivity, necessitates a robust MRO capacity for commercial aircraft. As India’s skies welcome an ever-increasing number of planes, establishing a resilient domestic MRO capability has evolved from a convenience into a strategic imperative.

Boeing, with a rich legacy spanning over eight decades in India, takes pride in its pivotal role in driving transformation within the aerospace and defence sector of the country. Presently, India operates an impressive fleet of Boeing platforms, including 11 C-17s, 22 AH-64 Apaches (with six more on order), 15 CH-47 Chinooks, 12 P-8Is, 3 VVIP aircraft (737 airframe), and two Head of State aircraft (777 airframe).

In 2021, Boeing launched Boeing India Repair Development and Sustainment (BIRDS), an in-country network and alliance of suppliers that envisions a competitive MRO ecosystem for engineering, maintenance, skilling, repair and sustainment services of defence and commercial aircraft. This network aims to drive high industry benchmarks in India for maintenance and repair, platform availability, customer satisfaction, quicker turnaround time. An important aspect of the hub is training programmes to increase skilled manpower by developing sub-tier suppliers and medium, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs) to build high quality MRO capabilities in India.

Under the BIRDS initiative:

  • Boeing and Air Works collaborated to successfully complete Phase 32 maintenance checks on eight P-8I aircraft operated by the Indian Navy, including three that underwent heavy maintenance checks simultaneously, showcasing a level of maturity and scale comparable to established global MRO hubs.
  • Horizon Aerospace was awarded a Boeing contract for the MRO of key Boeing defence platforms in India, the P-8I operated by the Indian Navy (IN) and the VIP 737 transport fleet operated by the Indian Air Force (IAF). It will enable value-creation for Indian defence customers locally through faster turnaround, exceptional operational capability and readiness on Boeing aircraft.
  • AI Engineering Services Limited (AIESL) entered into a strategic agreement with Boeing for the MRO of Boeing 777 IHoS aircraft operated by the Indian Air Force and is also exploring collaboration in repair and overhaul of landing gear and other commercial common 737NG equipment fitted on the Indian Navy’s P-8I fleet.
  • Boeing built an MRO facility in Nagpur, which was handed over to Air India in late 2014.

Boeing has taken the leadership to partner with customers and local industry to set up MRO facilities in the region to support India’s aspiration to become an MRO hub for the region, and also provide engineering and parts services to directly support regional commercial airline customers. Today, Boeing has the highest number of MRO partners in the country, working on defence and civil aviation.

The company actively works towards enhancing maintenance training and certification for Indian MROs, collaborating with regulators to elevate their capabilities and expertise. Boeing is proud to spearhead the development of first-in-India MRO capabilities, with collaborations with Air Works on Boeing 737 derivative aircraft and GMR on airplane cargo conversions, thus bolstering the MRO sector and contributing to India’s aviation industry. To ensure efficient MRO services, Boeing plans to invest USD24 million in the India Logistics Centre to guarantee the timely availability of critical components.

Furthermore, Boeing facilitates collaboration between component and engine OEMs and Indian MROs, with notable partnerships such as Spirit, a Boeing supplier, collaborating with GMR, and Safran/ CFM, a Boeing engine supplier, committing to establishing a full MRO facility in Hyderabad by 2025. These strategic alliances are poised to fortify the MRO ecosystem in India. Boeing is also investing in world-class MRO hangar infrastructure, exemplified by the world class C-17 MRO facility at Hindan Air Base. This infrastructure not only bolsters defence MRO but also holds the potential for future civil MRO operations.

In an earnest endeavour to enhance MRO capabilities, Boeing encourages leading global MROs to India to evaluate Indian MROs for component repair and explore potential partnerships. This exchange of expertise and knowledge is poised to contribute significantly to the growth and development of the MRO sector in India.

A robust MRO sector is indispensable for India’s defence and civil aviation sectors, offering multifaceted benefits to the nation. Boeing remains committed to supporting India’s aspiration to become an MRO hub for the region, fortifying the nation’s aerospace and defence landscape.

(The writer is President, Boeing India)

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