Part Manufacturer Approval (PMA) is the practice that’s gaining traction across the global commercial aviation industry. In Russia, pressed by economic sanctions, safe implementation of parts and components manufactured by a certified company other than their OEM, is of primary importance for the industry’s sustainability.
The country’s flag carrier Aeroflot has joined forces with state corporation Rosatom to launch a PMA producer and undergo the stringent approval procedures with the aviation regulators.
In September, leaders of Aeroflot and State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom signed a memorandum, which has laid ground for the two leaders’ strategic cooperation in development, testing, production and maintenance of aviation components.
The move is in effect one of the most practical steps towards sustainable solution for the burning issue of ensuring continued airworthiness of Western-built aircraft in Russian airlines’ fleets.
The two companies intend to create an integrated structure, encompassing the entire cycle – from design to manufacturing and maintenance – of Russian-made consumables and components for foreign-built aircraft. The partners are confident that joining their scientific, research, engineering, design and manufacturing resources will enable for such organization to be created and run on the state level.
The memorandum of strategic partnership is a logical step in development of an ongoing cooperation, which has already shown first results. In early June Russian aviation authority Rosaviatsiya approved use of air filters designed jointly by specialists of Aeroflot and Rosatom’s scientific research division. These components are used for air conditioning system onboard Airbus A320 family aircraft.
Aeroflot’s design solution department, under the airline’s FAP-21J aviation design organization certificate provided engineering and consulting support to Rosatom’s research experts. The parts are produced by Science and Innovation company (part of Rosatom) in cooperation with Leipunsky Physics and Energy Institute.
The multi-stage testing proved that air filters created as a result of this joint project are compliant with all technical performance requirements and their calculated lifetime exceeds that of the western-built components by between 20 and 25 per cent.
These filters have already completed the prescribed certification procedure routine and at the moment the designers are working with Rosaviatsiya to confirm procedural formalities to provide required documentation for the components’ installation on aircraft.
While working on this project, Aeroflot was able to elaborate the algorithm, which Russian aviation authorities will follow in approval of locally made class IIIB components (those components, which have no impact on flight operation safety) to be installed on western-built aircraft.
In essence, Aeroflot and Rosatom had to embark on the endeavor of designing new PMA parts all the way through winning approval from the Russian authorities identical to Parts Manufacturer Approval elsewhere in the world.
The PMA practice is gaining traction globally. It currently grew to a huge market, which exceeded 10 billion dollars last year, according to some estimates. US is leading the market, with other active users of PMA parts being China, Japan, Canada and Germany.
The procedures for safe use in commercial aviation of parts and components, designed outside the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), were originally developed and introduced by the Federal Aviation Administration in the US. Similar regulations were then implemented in the European Union, Australia, China and several other countries. Use of PMA is acceptable provided they come with an extensive approval package from national aviation authorities – and only in those structures and components, which cannot compromise aircraft’s airworthiness.
Introduction of PMA-identical procedures for approving non-OEM parts in Russia will reduce its dependence on imported parts, while maintaining high flight safety levels. Aeroflot and Rosatom took the challenging part of pioneers in this new territory.
:: Aeroflot Technics
Strategic partnership agreement between the two companies is aimed at launching production of parts and components for western aircraft maintenance procedures, approved by the national authorities. “Cooperation between Aeroflot and Rosatom is a significant contribution to systematic approach to complex engineering support of western-built aircraft continued airworthiness operated by Aeroflot Group as well as other Russian airlines,” says Aeroflot’s general director Sergey Alexandrovsky. “It will help provide sustainable and safe air travel in Russia.”
In turn, head of Rosatom Alexey Likhachev pointed out, “Rosatom’s scientific division already has positive experience of cooperation with Aeroflot. This year we completed a number of successful projects for replacement of a number of imported components on western-built aircraft. Aeroflot’s engineers provided design support, whereas production processes were developed by our institutes. I hope that our cooperation will continue developing upwards. For we have the same objective – to provide Russia’s leading industries with up-to-date, competitive, high-quality products”.
All documentation necessary for production, maintenance and repairs of aircraft components was developed by Aeroflot’s in-house design bureau. In March 2023 the flag carrier obtained expanded FAP-21J certificate. In partnership with Rosatom the airline is intending to create the full-cycle producer for replacement of a wide array of imported components.
Aeroflot’s technical director Alexey Mikhalik explained that the partners intend to develop, certify and produce components for all types of aircraft and to be used in flightdeck, cabin, baggage holds, structural repairs etc.
The plan is to produce air and water filter elements – plastic, metal, composite, rubber and cellular structures, as well as elements of electronic equipment of the passenger cabin (inverters, power units, sensors, heat and lighting components, lights and indicators).
So why did Aeroflot choose to partner with Rosatom – a company, which seems so far from aviation?
“We are working with numerous Russian companies and organizations, associated with production of equipment and components,” Alexey Mikhalik explains. “But in current environment their workload has increased manyfold. Besides, most plants are adjusted to mass serial production of new components, and for them our one-time orders of unique components are usually not very beneficial. Rosatom, on the contrary, has all acquired resources, scientific research competences, experience in small series production, including very specific technology. Along with that, its production is compliant with the highest Russian and international standards and quality management systems. We’re confident, that cooperation with such company, provided it is of interest to them as well, will boost our efficiency in this direction.”
Based on Aeroflot’s specifications, Rosatom’s specialists have already been able to adapt air and water filters, which are produced for nuclear energy plants, for use in air conditioning and potable water supply systems used on western-built aircraft. First components have been produced and tested in experimental operations. Some have been passed on to serial production.
Launch of full-scale production with airworthiness passports will depend on when the dedicated organization will start functioning and win its FAP-21G approval. Partners are counting on completing all procedures no later than the first half of the next year.
In the future, Aeroflot and Rosatom will attract other Russian scientific research centers in an effort to expand its capability list for replacement components and start assisting other Russian operators on using PMA parts.
Aeroflot’s ambition is not only to cater for the airline group’s own needs, but to create a national center of excellence which will render its services for design support for western aircraft operation across a wide base of customers.
:: Aeroflot Technics
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