The Aircraft Maintenance Business is Promising Growth
Photo by Jevgenij Shilnikov.
Half a thousand planes have already been checked by “Kaunas Aircraft Maintenance Service” (KAMS), the technical support base of “Ryanair” airline company located near Kaunas airport in Lithuania. “It can be said that practically every “Ryanair” aircraft on which you would fly today would probably have gone through our hangars and have been touched by the hands of the specialists from Kaunas,” says the head of the company Karolis Čepukas with a smile on his face and shows us two company hangars where two Boeing 737-800 aircraft can be checked simultaneously.
Highly qualified specialists, labour market challenges and ways of solving them, as well as not so much romantic but more technical the daily round of aircraft maintenance work full of modern technologies – all of this is in the interview with Karolis Čepukas who has been standing behind the wheel of KAMS since the establishment of the company in Lithuania.
A Growing Need for Specialists
Activities of KAMS, the technical maintenance of “Ryanair” airplanes, began in 2012, in one harbor. At that time, the company had 45 employees. The second hangar was opened a year later, so the capacity doubled, and the number of employees increased to 100.
“We have been steadily growing for five years and today we have over 200 employees. Undoubtedly, we want to expand further, however, faster development is being delayed by the lack of suitable employees and the lack of their competencies. Therefore, we work with government institutions to develop more specialized training programs suitable for the aircraft industry. For example, currently we are working with KTU, VGTU, KSU, Kaunas Mechanical School, and Kaunas University of Applied Engineering Sciences – all those who are teaching aircraft engineering and mechanics,” says K. Čepukas and adds that even after these studies the young person who comes to work in the company is being continuously trained so that his skills and abilities comply with the needs of the company.
It is already clear that soon there will be a significant increase in the demand of certain specialists: composite workshop engineers and avionics technicians – aviation mechanics-electricians.
“In a year, only a few specialists are prepared in Lithuania – only a very small number. And according to tendencies and seeing how fast the number of electronics on airplanes is growing, it’s obvious that avionics specialists will be needed more and more,” observes K. Čepukas.
Thorough Maintenance of the Airplane – in just Two Weeks
Initially, a simpler maintenance of two-year-old airplanes was carried out in Kaunas – one airplane stayed in the hangar just for two days. At present, the company checks airplanes which are eight or eleven years old. The older the airplane, the longer the maintenance – the more areas you need to check and more work to do. All “Ryanair” airplanes are the same – Boeing 737-800 – so maintenance work is simpler: each time the same aircraft, the same procedures and conditions for its maintenance.
KAMS repairs one of such aircraft within two weeks – according to K. Čepukas, this is very fast.
The average “Ryanair” airplane age is 6.8 years: it is not that many years, knowing that the life cycle of the airplane is 25 years. Currently, “Ryanair” has ordered 230 new airplanes, so the overall age of the airplanes is going to lower, and it is likely that after five years the average age of the whole aircraft fleet will be less than 5 years.
Proud of the Achievements of the First Employees
When “Ryanair” decided to settle in Kaunas, they carried out selections, contact fairs – this is how they verified the market and made sure that the interest is high.
“A significant part of people who have been selected six years ago have been working with us until now. Those who once came as mechanics, now become engineers – and this is a huge achievement both for Kaunas, and the whole Lithuania. An engineer certifies the work and if you want to become one, you need five years of experience, you must pass thirteen examinations of different modules and exams of the types of aircraft– so it is a long and difficult road. Therefore, we are justly proud that our first ten employees are already engineers, and this number is gradually increasing every year,” says K. Čepukas.
Impressive Expansion – all over the Company
KAMS, based in Kaunas, was the second of its kind in the world “Ryanair” company performing a thorough aircraft maintenance. The first one was established in Scotland, Prestwick. Currently, the third analogous company in Poland, Wroclaw has already begun its activities, the fourth one will be established in Spain.
“According to current demands, it’s clear that we need to further double the number of hangars in Europe to smoothly serve the expanding “Ryanair” airline,” says the head of KAMS, talking about the need to expand. – We are not the only ones who is growing and expanding: at present, “Ryanair” employs around 13,000 people, and in the next five years, hopefully, the number will reach 20,000”.
Great Opportunities for Aviation Business in Lithuania
According to K. Čepukas, both “Ryanair” and other representatives of the aviation industry in Lithuania are well aware that in order to expand existing companies and attract new ones, there is a need to have a huge supply of employees: “We have no doubt that with the availability of well-prepared aviation engineers, mechanics, and other specialists, the aviation field could repeat the IT sector’s success story in Lithuania.
During the first five years of our work, we saw that people coming to us have a critical lack of skills, therefore, this year we created a training department – at the level of the basic “Ryanair” maintenance. From now on, we accept and train two groups of up to 20 people annually.
During two years of theoretical and practical training, a person not only learns, but also works in the company, and after two years becomes a full-time mechanic and the main work force of the company.