Implementation of Fuel Cells in Aviation from a MRO perspective
IFA Comment: IFA agrees that a competent MRO can enable the implementation of fuel cells in aviation. The steps to get from where we are now to that future capability will require specific training and support from OEMs. This is unfamiliar technology which will gradually become common place. Hydrogen presents particular hazards that must be fully understood and respected.
Hydrogen is one of the most promising power sources for meeting the aviation sector’s long-term decarbonization goals. Although on-board hydrogen systems, namely, fuel cells, are extensively researched, the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) perspective remains mostly unaddressed. This paper analyzes fuel cells from an MRO standpoint, based on a literature review and comparison with the automotive sector. It also examines how well the business models and key resources of MRO providers are currently suited to provide future MRO services. It is shown that fuel cells require extensive MRO activities and that these are needed to meet the aviation sector’s requirements for price, safety and, especially, durability. To some extent, experience from the automotive sector can be built upon, particularly with respect to facility requirements and qualification of personnel. Yet, MRO providers’ existing resources only partially allow them to provide these services. MRO providers’ underlying business models must adapt to the implementation of fuel cells in the aviation sector. MRO providers and services should, therefore, be considered and act as enablers for the introduction of fuel cells in the aviation industry.