South African Airways Technical partners with Rolls-Royce on aircraft engine storage facility

South African Airways Technical (SAAT) and British industrial technology company Rolls-Royce has commenced a partnership that will help SAAT deliver improved aircraft availability and skills.

The two entities will work together on a facility based at the SAAT premises in Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport. The facility is capable of storing a full range of Rolls-Royce engine types to meet the requirements of airline and business jet customers based or operating in Africa.

“This partnership between Rolls-Royce and SAAT is critical in many respects. It will not only allow SAAT the ability to store engines at this facility — in compliance with engine manual requirements of Rolls-Royce — but it will equip [SAAT] with the capability and capacity to offer technical support on a full range of Rolls-Royce engine types,” said Thandi Phele, acting Deputy Director-General responsible for industrial development at the Department of Trade and Industry (dti).

The new facility can house every type of Trent engine, including the Trent 7000, which will soon power the Airbus A330neo into service. Photograph: Airbus A330neo By Alex Cheban/Wikimedia Commons

“[This will be in order] to meet the requirements of airline and jet customers based or operating in Africa. This is key for South Africa as an investment destination in Africa,” Phele said on Wednesday at the opening of the company’s first lease engine storage facility in Africa.

Rolls-Royce will train SAAT staff to enable them conduct work on engines in storage. The long-term goal is for SAAT mechanics to be capable of performing a range of inspection and on-wing services to Rolls-Royce customers on the continent, a statement said.

Phele stressed that South Africa will benefit from Rolls-Royce’s technical know-how. “Going forward, we want to partner more on technology transfer and; research and development in the aspects of engine maintenance,” she added.

SAAT’s acting Chief Executive Officer Wellington Nyuswa said the agreement will enable the company to demonstrate its capabilities to Rolls-Royce, a company SAAT has had a long-standing relationship with.

“It dovetails with our strategy to seek further revenue generating opportunities, and will enable our vision to be Africa’s leading world-class maintenance, repair and overhaul company,” said Nyuswa.

SAAT remains the cash cow of the loss-making South African Airways. However, the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services provider has also been facing difficulties in recent times, with increasing incidence of flight delays reducing confidence in the company. There are even reports that two lucrative contracts worth an estimated R730-million with Comair and SAA subsidiary, Mango are at risk as a result of waning confidence. The two airlines are reported to be considering Germany’s Lufthansa Technik, which is expected to open an MRO service in South Africa. Despite the difficulties, SAAT recorded an operating profit of R239 million for the year ended March 2018.

The partnership with Rolls-Royce could not have come at a better time for SAAT and the company is committed to getting the full benefits.

The Vice President Customers Africa at Rolls-Royce, Kevin Evans, said the opening of the facility marks the start of a journey that will see SAAT play an expanding role in the development of available services across Africa.