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PMA Value Proposition and Risk

Paul Bewell
Former Program Manager at Safran Nacelles

Learning outcomes

  • How different types of airline customers look at the value of using PMA parts in overhaul

Executive Bio

Paul Bewell

Former Program Manager at Safran Nacelles

Paul has over 25 years of experience in the aerospace supply chain. He started his career at Goodrich Aerostructures designing and building the nacelle for the A321 in 1996. In 2000, he moved to Safran Nacelles as Program Director before moving to Airbus in 2006 as a Director responsible for airline customer support. In 2009, Paul joined Parker Aerospace as Programme Manager in Toulouse before moving to GKN in 2015. Read more

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Interview Transcript

How do you think the OEMs and the view of the airlines, around PMA, is changing or evolving?

A few years ago, there were some notorious accidents, through the use of unauthorized parts, back in the late 70s and early 80s, in Europe. As a result of that, there was a very strong push back on non-OEM parts. It’s taken a long time for the industry to convince the authorities that it depends on the part. It is possible to have a perfectly good, reverse-engineered part. In order to justify that a part is reverse engineered, you need to be able to convince the authorities that you’ve fully understood how that part was designed. In Europe, in particular, the authorities rely on the OEMs to provide the technical justification for the products. The OEMs will not share that data with anybody.

So if there is a third-party organization who wants to reverse engineer a washer on the engine, you have to use your engineering experience to assess what the criteria are, for that washer, because Rolls Royce and Safran aren’t going to tell you. When you go to the authorities and say, “Right, I’ve redesigned this washer and I want to be able to supply it to the engines, because there’s hundreds of them, per engine and the OEMs are charging a fortune for this washer and I’ve had airlines wanting me to make a cheaper one. I can make a cheaper one.” The authorities are going to ask questions like, are you sure you know what the maximum temperature is that that washer is going to experience? How do you know what that temperature is? In some cases, the supplier has a good engineering judgment and a good justification why. But other times, without the original design data, it’s very difficult to do that.

In North America, the way the authority works, they work in a slightly different way. There is more delegation given to the engineers and the FAA, than there is in Europe. The FAA offers an alternative way to get parts approved. Because there is a bigger market there and there is a bigger attraction, the third-party suppliers can spend more time doing engineering, to justify the parts. In Europe, the market is smaller and there are more legal justification hurdles to jump through. It’s a more complicated process, to get a PMA approved in Europe and there’s more resistance to using them.

But the airlines like them because they’re much cheaper than the OEM parts?

Some airlines just don’t even want to think about the risk. Others, particularly those who have engineering in-house and are able to make the judgment call, to the satisfaction of management, they tend to demand them more. What sometimes happens, though, is for an overhaul shop to turn round to the OEM and say, I’m sorry, but you’re charging a small fortune for this widget here. We think you are overcharging us. OEMs have been challenged on the spare parts prices.

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