Maintaining a course of growth

Land, Sea & Air’s coverage of the UK-based international maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) specialist, Storm Aviation, over the last few years has been fortunate enough to coincide with the company’s expansion into the base maintenance arena. When first featured in the pages of this very magazine, in 2017, it was then in the process of obtaining base maintenance approval, and just over a year later it was a pleasure to detail the success the company was having not only here, but also in its longer held position as a leading line maintenance service and training provider.

Now, in late 2019, Storm Aviation’s CEO, Thomas Buckley, talks about what strides the company has made in the last 12 months. “Since we last spoke, we have completed our second season of base maintenance work and are now just entering into our third season. While this process has understandably represented a learning curve for us as an organisation, we have had a number of good wins in this field and our people continue to develop fantastic skill sets that complement their proven expertise in carrying out repairs and major modification works.

“One thing we have identified is the fact that in this area, much like many others in the aircraft maintenance world, margins are tight. Therefore, we are making every effort to perfect things like our Just-In-Time methodology and our lead times wherever we can. Our dedication towards continuous improvement is also reflected in the fact that, where previously we were an A-rated organisation approved for line and base maintenance, today we hold a B-rating, which allows us to carry out vital elements of on-wing engine support. These are early days in this area, but we already find ourselves working for at least one major OEM in multiple locations, so the future here looks very bright.”

Meanwhile, from a line maintenance point of view, in the past year Storm Aviation has opened up dedicated stations in key international locations such as Belfast, Stuttgart, Luton and Addis Ababa. At the same time, it has worked hard to bolt on new contracts and support functions at a number of its previously existing locations, has added Qatar Airways to its list of customers, has invested heavily in its Boeing 787 capabilities, and is about to embark on a programme of Airbus A350 works.

With such an impressive array of different undertakings occurring across its network of locations, the need to recruit qualified engineers and other talented individuals remains high on Storm Aviation’s agenda. Therein lies a challenge, however, as Thomas goes on to explain. “The recruitment of qualified people is an area in which we, and most other organisations, have struggled in recent times. In response to this, we have increased our investment in apprenticeship programmes with the likes of Kingston College and Newcastle Aviation Academy to provide opportunities for the next generation of engineers. We will look to take on new people from these institutions in the coming months and begin integrating them into our system.”

Storm Aviation’s existing staff have also been reaping the rewards of the company’s desire to make internal improvements, with 2019 seeing a strong push to better its internal communications capabilities. At the heart of this has been the transformation of the company’s continuation training programmes. “A lot of businesses tend to conduct such training via online platforms – primarily as it represents a more cost-effective approach,” Thomas details. “What we have done is essentially revert back somewhat to the process of actually bringing our teams together into one comfortable environment where they can engage with one another and with various management teams to discuss what the company is doing well, what it needs to do better and any other issues that they wish to raise.”

Thomas makes himself available at each of these training sessions, offering up his time to speak either publically or in the privacy of his office with employees. As such, he is all too aware of the positive role this cross pollination of employees from different parts of the Storm Aviation network plays to the company’s own development. “I have seen first-hand the excellent strides that activities such as these are making in helping all of us here to determine exactly the areas in which we excel and where we can make changes,” he enthuses. “From a financial perspective, yes it does cost more to operate in this way, but the benefits in terms of employee engagement and self-improvement are tremendous, and make it money that is absolutely well spent!”

As we rapidly approach 2020, much of the next 12 months – and beyond – is yet to be shaped by the outcome of the UK General Election and the passing of its latest deadline for exiting the European Union at the end of January 2020. For now, however, Thomas states that Storm Aviation will continue to work to the brief that has long been key to delivering success to the company.

“The coming months will remain all about achieving targeted growth with our existing customers, staying close to them wherever in the world they operate and continuing to provide the type of first-class service that we have become synonymous with as a known and trusted entity. Of course, at the same time, we will remain on the lookout for new customers and will continue to work hard to better ourselves as an organisation through increased engagement with our people,” he concludes.

Storm Aviation
Base maintenance activities continue to grow
Active apprenticeship programmes are bringing through new talent
Is actively encouraging employee engagement and idea sharing