Taking maintenance by storm

Storm Aviation has enjoyed a considerable year-on-year growth in profit in the past four years. Known for its expertise in line maintenance, which contributes to 70 per cent of its revenue, the UK-based international MRO has now set its sights to get to the next stage of its development as a successful business. To complete its long-term goal, it has focused on base maintenance capabilities that will complement its service proposition.

When we first featured Storm Aviation in our magazine a year ago, the business was still in the process of obtaining base maintenance approval, which became a fact in October 2017, when Storm Aviation got qualified to deliver services for the Airbus A320 family and Boeing 757 aircraft. “We decided to expand into base maintenance services because of our location at the Diamond Hangar facility in London-Stansted, which offers huge scope for expansion and development. This new capability also enabled us to secure a new three-year contract with EasyJet to provide services such as landing gear changes, modification and repair lines, major component changes, as well as end of lease support,” explains Ian Jones, Head of Sales at Storm Aviation. “Similarly, we added Boeing 757 to the scope, because of the work demand from other clients. Capability on other types is also being sought.”

For the company to position itself as a reliable base maintenance service provider, it needed to demonstrate its capabilities to the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). “We had to make a very significant investment in manpower, tooling and equipment.,” Ian adds. “For example, a significant part of our base maintenance proposition covers the swap-out of aircraft landing gears, and the equipment required to carry out such an operation is very expensive.”

The past few months proved a successful period for the business’ line maintenance services, too, which grew to 23 line stations, with more to be added in the future. Ian comments: “For 22 years, we have been known predominantly as a line maintenance and technical training company and we are of course looking to preserve this reputation and grow this side of the business considerably. Our board has set a defined target to achieve a year-on-year net growth of at least three new line stations. Net growth is key here because as certain locations become unprofitable for the airline clients they will cut that location very quickly, meaning that through no fault of ours we are left to close a station sometimes at short notice. Luckily, we are experiencing strong organic growth across each of our stations and one of the brightest examples is Dhaka (Bangladesh). We have operated from this location for eight years now and we have recently secured a new contract with Qatar Airways that will add another 24 flights a week to it,” he enthuses.

In addition, Storm Aviation opened a new line station in the Nigerian capital, Lagos during 2017, and is keen on investigating the possibilities of expanding into other locations in West Africa, as part of its commitment to develop its international network. “We are not taking our eyes off the UK, either, of course,” Ian maintains. “We are targeting continued growth here and in November, we are opening a line station in Belfast, on behalf of EasyJet.”

Drawing on his experience that spans more than 20 years, he shares his view on present market conditions and how the aviation industry is evolving. “From a commercial perspective, it is clear that there is a markedly heavier involvement by the OEMs in the MRO segment. For instance, we are now offering services to Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier and Rolls-Royce, which never happened before – it was always the direct requirements of the airlines we needed to address. What we see is that the OEMs seek to support the component provision element of a contract, the part where they have the most leverage, but look for an approved supplier to look after the line and light maintenance, and this is where Storm steps in,” Ian observes.

“I am pleased to say that we have seen quite a lot of opportunities coming our way, originating from our direct partnership with Airbus and Boeing. We have recently signed a new contract with Rolls-Royce, too, for the provision of storage and logistic support, and we are hoping that this agreement will evolve in time, allowing us to strengthen our relationship with this highly important OEM and deliver more valued services to them.”

Brexit constitutes yet another hot topic for the entire business landscape on both sides of the Channel, and the aviation industry is one that is following the negotiations between the UK and the Brexit constitutes yet another hot topic for the entire business landscape on both sides of the Channel, and the aviation industry is one that is following the negotiations between the UK and the EU most closely. Striking a post-Brexit aviation deal is considered paramount for the normal continuation of business operations once the UK leaves the EU and measures are now being taken, should no deal between the two parties be reached. “We are doing everything to mitigate the risk to our business and customers. There are a number of complex issues and we are not quite sure how they will turn out, but we are doing what is in our power to be ready,” Ian says.

Undoubtedly, Storm Aviation has built a capacity to service a wide variety of aircraft, and the organisation is always on the lookout to adding new types to its offering. The Airbus A350 currently represents a potential target area for the company, which aims to continue offering a flexible and reactive service to its customers. In the meantime, Storm Aviation does not shy away from investing in its engineers, regarding them as the business’ biggest asset.

“It is also important to offer both airline and private clients the opportunity for first-class aircraft maintenance training, as part of our service. This is the reason why we have set up a dedicated training school with a first-class training team here, at London Stansted,” Ian claims. He recognises the general shrinking of the labour pool that continues to concern the industry at the moment, stressing the need to seek viable solutions more actively. “As we are coming to the end of summer season 2018, it has become evident, more so than in any other summer season I can remember in the past ten years, that there is an ever-increasing demand and a relative shortage of skilled engineers in the marketplace. Every airline and every maintenance provider is extremely reliant on supplementary seasonal contract staff. This is a trend that has to be tackled, and, although it is very early days, I believe that organisations like ours have to be more involved in contributing to future training schemes for young and aspiring mechanics and engineers.”

As far as the future is concerned, encouraged by the excellent direction in which the company is headed, Storm Aviation’s stakeholders envisage aggressive growth in the coming months and years ahead, and Ian reveals that the business’ ambition is to quadruple its revenue and profit in the next couple of years. “It is the natural progression of our development as a company that will take us to a higher level. However, we recognise that we can no longer grow solely organically, that is why we are now looking into various acquisition opportunities to complement our business capabilities,” he concludes, making a clear statement of intent that the company is going to take the MRO sector by storm in the years to come.

Storm Aviation
Developed base maintenance capabilities in the past 12 months
Operates 23 line stations
Looking to quadruple its revenue in the near future