Aircraft maintenance — it’s all about going by the book, documenting your work, precisely replacing or repairing worn pieces or parts and watching the bottom line. Right?
Maybe not, said Eric Schulz, the new president of Goodrich’s Everett-based Aviation Technical Services division.
Aircraft maintenance, he says, is "a very emotional business."
A jet may be torn apart inside a maintenance hangar today, while mechanics go over it checking for wear. But by the end of next week, some airline somewhere plans to have that plane back in the air carrying passengers — and they’ve already sold tickets for that flight.
That plane has got to be in the air on schedule, and "that’s where the adrenaline comes in," Schulz said. "When you’re a passenger, you don’t pay an airline to transport you two days late."
As a result, maintenance providers such as Goodrich become part of their customers’ operations, Schulz said. "It’s kind of a family circle. It’s not only a customer kind of relationship."
And that is why, Schulz said, he has spent most of his first few weeks on the job meeting with his new customers.
A native of France with a German father and Italian mother, Schulz joined Goodrich earlier this month, after three years as president of EADS Aeroframe Services in Lake Charles, La. The company is a joint venture between Northrup Grumman and EADS North America, a subsidiary of one of Airbus’ parent companies, and it specializes on maintenance and repairs on Airbus jets.
Prior to that, he worked for Air Liberte, the former French subsidiary of British Airways.
Schulz replaces Dave Shaw, who has been appointed to a new position within Goodrich’s Airframe Systems division — vice president for business model projects.
Goodrich primarily works on Boeing-built airplanes — 737s in particular. Schulz said that while there are specific differences in maintenance procedures, "the heart of the business is really similar. … an aircraft is an aircraft."
On a recent visit, the main Goodrich maintenance hangar was filled with airplanes belonging to a low-cost carrier, a package freight company and two Pacific Rim airlines. The hangar hasn’t appeared this busy since before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
But in spite of the upsurge, "generally speaking, the market is very depressed," Schulz said. "It’s very tough."
Competition is heavy and has driven down prices, he said. That’s forcing maintenance shops such as Goodrich to increase efficiency.
"The airlines are still facing very high-level problems," Schulz said. "Everybody’s trying to cut costs everywhere."
When it will get better is anyone’s guess, he continued. "We try to look at different experts to see when the sunshine will come back."
But while the five-day forecast is gloomy, Schulz does see sun breaks on the horizon.
As air travel becomes more of a commodity, airlines are doing more to make their service stand out in the public’s mind. Jet Blue, a low-cost carrier that installed seat-back in-flight entertainment systems on its planes, is one of the pioneers in this trend. Other airlines are following suit, adding more elaborate interiors and services such as Connexion, Boeing’s aerial Internet.
"It’s an argument to sell you a ticket," Schulz said.
That will lead to new business for Goodrich, which includes interior remodeling among its specialties.
"Interiors have to reflect the spirit of the airline," he said. "That will create opportunities for companies like ours."
Reporter Bryan Corliss: 425-339-3454 or firstname.lastname@example.org.