MRO Management December 2018

Wheels down, brakes on: Download a PDF of the article 

Phil Randell, owner and Accountable Manager of World Aero, a UK-based specialist wheel and brake MRO provider, described the business. “Wheel and brake maintenance is always on an on-condition basis, there’s generally never any scheduled maintenance.

Many people outside the business assume we’re busier during the winter when more aircraft are in heavy maintenance, but in fact the opposite is true, because if an aircraft’s tyres and brakes have life left, they won’t be disturbed during heavy checks. But when an aircraft is operating, if the tyres or brakes are worn out, they’ll be removed. Our work is therefore driven by aircraft utilisation.”

Brake and tyre inspection fall under the regular tasks included in line maintenance and, Randell says, once a unit becomes worn sufficient to require replacement, “The brake unit or wheel is removed and a replacement fitted. The worn component then comes to us for refurbishment – wheel and brake maintenance is done off-wing (except for the 787, where on-wing maintenance of the aircraft’s electrical brake system is possible), and our main facility is not at an airport. “On a modern, carbon brake we’d replace all the discs. They come as a ‘heat-pack assembly’ that replaces all the worn material. We also deal with leaks – brakes occasionally leak in service, and we also sometimes see leaks when we test units that come in for replacement worn heat-packs. With testing complete, we issue the unit with a release certificate, returning it to serviceable condition.”

World Aero’s airline clients typically pass wheel and brake units through the company on a regular rotation, while maintaining their stocks so that sufficient components are also available to service the fleet and provide airworthy spares. But it also works heavily with brokers managing maintenance on behalf of airlines and also with spares dealers, selling surplus or reclaimed stock. “We’re an MRO; our primary role is to repair and overhaul other people’s wheels and brakes. We’re not about buying wheels and brakes and overhauling them as cheaply as possible for us to resell. Also, we respect that our dealer/ broker customers are sending us units to overhaul for their sales stock and don’t then want to have to compete with us in the sales market.

Consequently, end-users purchasing a unit with World Aero certification know it has been overhauled to a standard, rather than to a price. While World Aero works high volumes for large airlines, Randell is also proud of its capability to accommodate ad hoc requirements. “Our ability to do that is inherent in our workshop layout and the processes involved; we’re able to provide the same standards and speed of service to our one-off customers as we do to our regulars.”

He declines to elaborate on the key processes and working arrangements, but notes: “Although we have a large customer spread, it’s important not to turn away single jobs – they’re something other MROs often struggle with.”