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Friday, September 1, 2006

UK MRO Operator Harrods: Benefits from Up-Market Service

Roy Allen

The high costs of maintenance equipment, tools and engineering training concern UK-based MRO Harrods Aviation, which in recent times has seen $20,000 going towards Gulfstream jet tooling and another $52,000 toward Embraer series tooling alone, together with $1.3 million on staff training. But in spite of such outlays, the company is sanguine about the cost burden it bears, because it is flourishing and seeing a steady increase in business annually. "We spent $1.3 million last year on staff training, sending engineers to Montreal and Wichita, but this is company policy as we aim to get the best and we think it is worth it," said John Bool, head of engineering.

Ironically, the nature of the company's business and the diversity of aircraft types it handles are both the reasons for its success and its high outlays. Harrods Aviation is a typically British organization in that it bears a long-established famous name and is owned by a non-Briton, namely Mohamed Al-Fayed, owner of the Knightsbridge, London, store of the same name. A regular and knowledgeable air traveler, Al-Fayed had his corporate aircraft maintained by other companies until he created Harrods Aviation in 1995. Now, the company has bases at Stansted and Luton airports, is performing 40,000 hours of MRO work annually, and handles everything for corporate and VIP clients from Learjets to Challengers, Global Express, and Gulfstream aircraft, and the Embraer series through to Boeing Business Jets, and B747s. There is a sister company, Air Harrods, and an engine overhaul shop at Farnborough, Hants.

Al-Fayed has invested $19 million in the renovation and furnishing of leased terminal buildings at both airports.

Up to seven wide-bodied aircraft are handled every week, including privately-owned B747s, on which line maintenance only is performed. Helicopter charters are available, from Air Harrods at Luton, while hangarage is available to rent at both airports for aircraft up to BBJ size.

"We're taking on more work every year," said Bool, "hence the effort invested in training. We're the second biggest MRO at Stansted and probably the biggest handling corporate, executive, and business aircraft in the UK. We've just taken on the management, maintenance, and operation of a Sikorsky S-92 for an owner. This covers the airframe and engine maintenance, and which we've also just fitted-out." Conversion and interior work is another part of the company's business.

Inevitably, the greater sophistication of equipment, the greater the cost appears, and Bool noted the influx of advanced software on corporate aircraft, which brought with it additional costs in maintenance manpower and equipment. New diagnostic systems are increasingly seen on corporate aircraft also, very much for the better where MRO work is concerned. Where parts are concerned, however, the good news is that the stock is light. "We couldn't hold parts for all of the different [aircraft] types we handle," said Bool, "but we don't have any problem anyway because we live on airports and can obtain parts from OEMs in 24 hours."

Harrods Aviation is now certified by FAA, CAA, Transport Canada, EASA 145, South African CAA, Bermuda, and Saudi PCA for B, C, and D-checks on airframes, engines, avionics, upgrades, and interiors.

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