BizAv MRO: How ABS Jets is Targeting Growth

ABS Jets recently surpassed a half-million MRO man-hours – an impressive milestone for a company that only opened its hangar doors in 2004. AvBuyer caught up with Vladimir Šíp to discuss the achievement, the maintenance operation’s future plans, and the wider industry.

AvBuyer  |  04th November 2020
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    ABS Jets Line Maintenance Technician works on a private jet

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    Based in Prague, Czech Republic, ABS Jets has seen rapid growth within the Business Aviation community these past 16 years, achieving a number of milestones across various departments that include business jet charter and brokerage, aircraft management, trip support and travel management, ground handling and aircraft maintenance...

    One such achievement came recently as the company completed its 500,000th man-hour of MRO work. Yet, built on a culture of achieving and exceeding expectations, the industry can expect to see plenty more to come from ABS Jets.

    One of the best placed people to comment is Vladimir Šíp, Chief Technical Officer of the company’s maintenance department. Having joined the company almost since the beginning, Mr. Šíp has also grown with it – and he recently took the time to share his perspectives with AvBuyer.

    AvBuyer: Vladimir, first, tell us how you came to be the Chief Technical Officer at ABS Jets. What is your background in MRO, and how has ABS Jets been an ideal progression for your career?

    Šíp: It has been quite a long journey which began 15 years ago. I’ve been with ABS Jets since its early years, and since the very beginning I’ve been proud to be a part of this company. The incredible teamwork and effort of my colleagues to achieve – and exceed – their goals have helped me to grow and develop my professional qualities.

    This led me to become Line Maintenance Manager at ABS Jets, and after ten years of managing the line maintenance team, I was offered the role of Chief Technical Officer where I can apply my experience to lead the MRO team.

    ABS Jets started around 15 years ago as a small organization with just 20 people. In some respects, setting up and implementing procedures were more straightforward, and faster than at large international or other local MROs.

    From the start, we were fortunate to cooperate with highly qualified, experienced and internationally-recognized experts (most of them are still with us). These experts set up the processes and lay the foundations for a successful company. As a result, ABS Jets is today a profitable MRO facility and a very complex, yet refreshingly flexible company that achieves different milestones every year across all departments.

    Management has created a supportive, friendly, and open working climate, which I believe distinguishes ABS Jets from other MROs. I am excited to be part of the company’s strategic management to continue this trend.

    Vladimir Šíp, Chief Technical Officer, ABS Jets

    AvBuyer: You mention achieving and exceeding goals. ABS Jets recently celebrated completing 500,000 MRO man hours of work since 2004, a tremendous achievement. You have seen a significant portion of that work come through the ABS Jets hangar doors. What would you say has been the department's biggest asset, both in achieving such a milestone, and more generally?

    Šíp: It has certainly been exciting to see the company’s development step-by-step, and how it has grown dynamically from being a small player to become a well-recognized operation and MRO in Europe, and globally.

    Without any doubt, our biggest asset is our people. Without our employees, we wouldn’t have been able to complete this incredible number of man-hours.

    Some people have been with the company from its beginning, but most have been working for ABS Jets for the last five years. The team is continuously educated and trained, and our people are kept current and up-to-date. We strive to create a ‘vertical’ organization while maintaining a ‘flat’ culture – we believe this enables all our employees to be kept motivated and eager to grow.

    These 500,000 man-hours didn’t come without obstacles, but without those we wouldn’t be able to rethink, restart, accelerate our journey, and move forward.

    AvBuyer: Speaking of moving forward, successful MRO operations never sit still for long. Having passed such a significant milestone, ABS Jets focus will naturally be on the next 500,000 man hours. What are the company’s plans for MRO development, both short- and long-term?

    Šíp: In the short-term, we’re focusing on our effectiveness in production, and implementing specific steps to make sure our customers receive even better and faster service, while maintaining our quality.

    Looking further into the future, we’re working hard to expand our MRO capability for other aircraft types to fully satisfy our customers’ needs and cover more aircraft types, including helicopters.

    In this respect, I should mention that our Line Maintenance is already approved to support seven aircraft types and one helicopter, including the Embraer Legacy 600/650, Embraer Phenom 100, Embraer Phenom 300, Gulfstream G550, Gulfstream G650, Dassault Falcon 7X, and Airbus H145.

    AvBuyer: While we cannot ignore the impact of Covid-19, as the well-known saying goes, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. How have the challenges of Covid-19 altered ABS Jets' MRO plans, and what unexpected opportunities has the pandemic created?

    Šíp: Regrettably, our MRO facility has also been struck by the Covid-19 pandemic, but fortunately only moderately.

    We missed a few inspections due to travel restrictions. Mostly these were because the aircraft owner’s representatives and engineers were unable able to fly to the Czech Republic to accompany the aircraft, so the clients opted to fly to other MRO centers in more accessible areas.

    In addition, the ABS Jets team was preparing for an approval audit for a new country, but that was cancelled because of consulate closures and visa suspensions, hence another large project was missed.

    Nevertheless, we didn’t ease up – we kept our operations going. We used the available time to renovate our hangars, and mostly to train our technicians. Our technicians undertook training to improve their effectiveness, safety practices, and work quality (twelve of our technicians were trained for the EMB 135/145, categories B1, B2 and C).

    This period also gave us the opportunity to prove our abilities. Covid-19 has taught us to think outside of the box more than ever before. For instance, in cooperation with our Flight Department, we were able to pick up a customer’s aircraft from their home-base and fly it to our service center for a check.

    AvBuyer: Can you provide us with an overview of the trends you are seeing in todays' MRO field? How would you expect those trends to change and develop?

    Šíp: We see a growing competition between small unauthorized MRO centers. Sadly, we are also seeing some of these centers present themselves as authorized maintenance centers. The aircraft OEMs themselves do not have full control over those. This situation is quite frustrating for the rest of the MRO facilities – ABS Jets included – since we work very hard to obtain all the appropriate certifications and authorizations. 

    We also note that clients do not properly verify whether an MRO facility is authorized or not. Choosing an unauthorized MRO center could significantly impact the customer financially, especially if the customer’s aircraft is under warranty, so we recommend aircraft owners check very carefully.

    Moreover, as an initial consequence of Covid-19 costs are being watched very closely by aircraft owners and operators. Customers are being more vigilant, considering every item on the order form twice before signing. A ferry flight to an MRO facility is the first cost the customer will tend to encounter, and we have lost a couple of inspections because of the ferry flights.

    The background of a customer is not always knowable, but it can be assumed their businesses and industries have been impacted differently by Covid-19. We can only hope for quick recovery.

    AvBuyer: Finally, for operators who are choosing an MRO facility for their aircraft, in order of importance, what are the top three things they should look for?

    Šíp: As I mentioned, clients should prioritize double-checking whether the MRO is authorized.

    We also recommend clients consider a variety of proposals, and resist the temptation to agree to the least expensive proposal. There’s much truth that you get what you pay for in the MRO world. A neglected scheduled maintenance (for a lower price) is likely to cost much more money at the next inspection.

    Finally, look for supporting services, such as CAMO, Mobile Line Maintenance support, etc. Your aircraft is a sophisticated, and expensive machine requiring qualified day-to-day care. 

    Regular maintenance that solves minor technical issues will prevent more extensive and complex problems from occurring. MRO centers with skilled line maintenance professionals can get the customer out of many tight spots.

    When selecting the right MRO, agree on the services package for a reasonable price. Customers may save a lot of money in the longer-term, and proactive and transparent communication in each project are crucial.

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