Former Aircraft Parts Salesman Looks to Revolutionize the MRO Industry with App

The software matches people who need aircraft maintenance and repairs with the right service provider for them.

Andy Nixon hopes MRO Insider will change how airplane owners choose who does their aircraft maintenance. [Courtesy: Andy Nixon]

A recent Brandessence Market Research report published this week said that the global aircraft MRO market was valued at $70.84 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $97.12 billion by 2028.

The same study estimates that by 2027 the commercial fleet could grow to more than 35,000 aircraft—an increase of 33 percent compared to the fleet size a decade earlier (2017). 

In terms of general and business aviation, The FAA's most recent aerospace forecast estimates that by 2041, the active GA fleet will grow to 208,790 units, with the business sub-segment nearly tripling in fleet size during the same time.

Added to that, the FAA predicts that people will be flying their aircraft more, especially newer aircraft. A total of 29.4 million hours will be flown in 2041, an increase of nearly 4 million hours when compared to GA flight activity in 2019, according to the report. Jet aircraft are expected to account for most of the increase.   

Altogether, these trends have created a perfect storm at the MRO level. Facilities are dealing with an unprecedented backlog and aircraft owners and operators are scrambling to do  what they can to keep their fleet airborne.

A look at the mobile app interface. [Courtesy: MRO Insider]

The Birth of MRO Insider

Just like Zoom was a timely solution when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, one aviation startup hopes to emerge as the tool that can save the MRO industry from collapsing under the weight of growing demand by opening the market to independent maintenance providers.

Enter entrepreneur Andy Nixon’s software: MRO Insider. Nixon calls his invention a “two-sided marketplace,” where owners and operators can request maintenance tasks on their aircraft through an app. In response, the customer receives the most popular repair option, as well as a list of potential MRO facilities that could complete the job.

Nixon is a 2021 “40 Under 40” award recipient from the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and a former aircraft parts salesman. He recalls when the idea for the business first came to him.

"I can remember like it was yesterday,” Nixon said. “I had gone all the way to Milwaukee and had driven to the west side to the border of Wisconsin and Minnesota to talk to a potential client." 

As Nixon put it, he did all the paperwork to wrap up the maintenance agreement for the customer so that his company’s MRO would get the nod to do some upcoming inspections. Nixon sent the quote to the customer, he then waited for them to sign on. After hearing nothing for a while, he decided to look at FlightAware to see if the customer had flown anywhere.  

"Lo and behold, they had flown over the top of us and went to Cleveland and Constant Aviation for the inspection," Nixon said. 

But that's only the first part. 

"Then I went to my boss, the general manager, to explain what happened, [and] he said, 'Constant Aviation just called us, and I sent our tooling over to help them do an inspection on a Citation Bravo.' 

“So not only did I not get the job, but we sent tooling so they could borrow it to do the job."

At that very moment, Nixon said MRO Insider was born. He realized that even with the capabilities and sometimes a better quoted price for maintenance, smaller shops without the advertising budget of a brand-name provider more likely stood to lose.

"The customer flew farther because they didn't know, and the fact that [Constant Aviation] were able to advertise themselves as being better at the job for that aircraft—that was it for me."

Nixon figured that other shops of similar sizes faced the same challenges. His solution would inform customers about all of the available maintenance providers, giving them more flexibility, less aircraft downtime, and more transparency in terms of price. 

Today, that's what MRO Insider provides.

[Courtesy: MRO Insider]

The Reaction

As you might imagine, the app didn't receive a warm welcome from the bigger shops. 

"They said 'wait a minute—these small to medium shops are paying X amount a month to be on here and now they're getting to look at our same customers that we've spent millions of dollars and all this payroll on," Nixon said.

According to the product website, as of January 2022, more than 250 provider locations are on the network. More than 2,500 aircraft are registered. By its estimates, the company says that as a third-party provider, MRO Insider has successfully built the largest network of aircraft on ground (AOG) maintenance teams in the world. 

Nixon said he built up a software team that allows customers to send out a single request for the type of service they need and reach providers within a 300-mile radius of their aircraft. Nixon says the platform has been successful enough that his company will make strategic expansions later this year.

"On January 3rd, we announced that we will start doing the fuel and the hangar and other ideas."

Nixon said he doesn't expect to roll out advertising because that would create a similar problem as before for the smaller maintenance shops, and he wants to maintain transparency.

"There's no pay to play on our system."

So what's to come?

"As far as growth, our biggest goal this year is to get over 100 FBO[s] registered on there, and then our next step will be to allow our users to ping out for supplemental lift so that customers can also get their boss home."

Michael Wildes holds a master’s degree in Logistics & Supply Chain Management, and a bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Science, both from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Previously, he worked at the university’s flight department as a Flight Check Airman, Assistant Training Manager, and Quality Assurance Mentor. He holds MEI, CFI & CFII ratings. Follow Michael on Twitter @Captainwildes.

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