Nation has the Scope, Capacity and Potential to create an MRO ecosystem: Air Marshal Vibhas Pande

New Delhi: Air Marshal Vibhas Pande, Air Officer-in-Charge, Maintenance (AOM), IAF today said that four pillars needed to achieve a convergence or synergy between commercial or civil and defence MRO (maintenance, repairs & overhauls) are effects of scale; leveraging skills; skill development, and process.

Addressing the session on “Convergence of Civil & Defence MRO” at Aero India 2021, Air Marshal Pande elaborated that the MRO for both civil and defence depends on effects of scale; skills- leveraging skills of former servicemen who have maintenance capabilities; skill development of the younger workforce, and the process of inspection & quality to ensure safety.

Elaborating on the MRO business in the country, Air Marshal Pande said that it has grown exponentially and has great prospects to further grow. “The scope is phenomenal. As on date our dependence on foreign OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) is to the tune of 85 per cent. The civil aviation sector and the MSMEs can contribute in a large way. There is huge scope, capacity and potential in the country to create an all-new ecosystem as far as defence MRO is concerned,” he added.

When we look at the MRO, it is not only the airframe and the engine, but every piece of machinery, system, and sub-system that need repairs in its lifetime. Spares are divided into two- AGS (aircraft general spares) and non-AGS, the manufacturing of which is a project in itself, he said.

On maintenance and quality, Air Marshal Pande quipped that we (India) are the only Air Force in the world that keeps our machines fly worthy. “The quality of a defence equipment must meet the norms and once it’s achieved there are no limits,” he further added.

Mr Amber Dubey, Joint Secretary, MoCA, Govt of India mentioned about recycling of deregistered aircraft that the RBI has given a green signal to. “Recycling is a huge industry. It was being done with ships initially, and the same can now be done with aircraft that have been deregistered by the DGCA. The govt and the RBI is gradually working to take down roadblocks that hindered the path,” he said.

Mr Dubey also added that any deregistered aircraft can be taken down for parts or components free of tax and without any paperwork required. It now falls in the Free to Export list of the RBI.

Further, Mr Dubey said that the NAB (National Aeronautics Board), announced in mid- January this year, much like the two other major hi-tech sectors like atomic and space, will be headed by the Prime Minister himself. It aims to cut out on all bureaucracy to function.

“The concept is to go from generics to specifics. Atmanirbhar Bharat is no more a slogan. There is now a focus on outcome rather than output,” Mr Dubey added.

Mr Salil Gupte, President, Boeing India said that under Atmanirbhar Bharat there are world class MROs that need to scale up, develop and showcase what they can do to the world. “India will be an MRO hub for both defence and civil aviation,” he said.

Mr SP Shukla, Chair FICCI Defence & Aerospace Committee and Group President (Defence, Aero, Agri & Steel); Member of the Group Executive Board, Mahindra Group said that our govt is committed to developing the MRO ecosystem in India. “India is currently the world’s third largest aviation market. The Udaan Scheme is also a key component of NCAP as it looks to enhance regional connectivity by operationalising over 400 regional airports in the coming years.

The Indian MRO market, said Mr Shukla, is estimated at close to USD 800 million, which is only a small fraction of the global MRO market. “Further with the expected increase in fleet size of all Indian airlines to almost 1800 aircraft in the next 20 years, the domestic MRO market would need to grow exponentially to provide on ground support to the large air fleet in India,” he said.

Defence MROs are not very different to civil MROs and this segment to grow too. Currently it is limited to base repair depots of the IAF and the HAL. Involvement of Pvt industry has already commenced, and it needs to increase further, Mr Shukla added.

Mr Sudhakar Gande, Co-chair, FICCI Defence & Aerospace Committee and CEO, Jupiter Capital Pvt Ltd said that in integrating the Atmanirbhar policy while building a global MRO we need to scale up, developing and leveraging skills, technology, and simpler processes.

Mr Praveen PA, Director, Aerospace & Defence, Govt of Telangana; Col KV Kuber (Retd), Director, Defence & Aerospace, E&Y India; Mr Bharat Malkani, Chairman & MD, Max Aerospace & Aviation Ltd; Mr D Anand Bhaskar, MD & CEO, Air Works; Mr Luigi Celmi, CEO, Lufthansa Technik Services India; Mr CS Tomar, MD, Tomar Aviation Services; Mr Ravi Menon, Director, Air Works, also shared their views on the convergence of the civil and defence MRO ecosystem in the country.