41STORM AVIATION GROUP |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2018
Thomas Buckley, CEO
The “beast from the East”
did not deter us
Storm Aviation is one of Europe’s leading independent
commercial aircraft maintenance providers. Founded in
1996, the business was for some years predominantly
an aircraft line maintenance company prior to 2012. While
previously headquartered at both Luton and Gatwick airports
over the years, they now centre their operations at the colossal
18-acre Diamond Hangar Aviation Hub, at Stansted airport. The
business previously focused just on line maintenance, which is
the routine upkeep of aircraft during normal turnaround periods
on the ground. CEO Thomas Buckley’s desire to diversify,
however, saw them expand their scope.
First, we looked to enhance our training and aircraft-on-ground (AOG) recovery
capability and then later moved into base maintenance – which is carried out
when an aircraft has been removed from the live operating environment and
placed into a hangar environment. These strategic decisions enabled us to not just
grow domestically, but also further expand in the international market; we now
operate subsidiary companies in Cyprus, Nigeria, Spain, Bangladesh and Germany,
employing around 200 people across the world.
The majority of what we do is still line maintenance, and it has been our core
competency for over 20 years. Alongside base maintenance and external aircraft
type training, we have four steady streams of income, the last of which is AOG
recovery, which serves as a supplement; it’s essentially a circumstantial emergency
service for our clients and thus cannot be relied upon as a revenue generator.
It’s also important to note that all of our operations are exclusively commercial –
FACTS ABOUT
STORM AVIATION GROUP
»CEO: Thomas Buckley
»Established in 1996
»Based in Diamond Hangar
Aviation Hub, Stansted airport
»No. of employees: Around 200
globally
»Part of the Avia Solutions
Group, a WSE listed group
»Supports over 40 major
airlines
»Handles around 40,000
aircraft per year
»www.stormaviation.com
»www.aviasg.com
Storm Aviation Group
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
42 | STORM AVIATION GROUP
wecurrently do not work in the private
or military aviation sectors.
Aviation is incredibly well regulated;
anyone involved either directly or
indirectly has to adhere to regulations
that are designed to uphold the
strictest of safety standards.
After working closely with the Civil
Aviation Authority and the European
Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), we
massively up-scaled our training
operations to reflect the kind of
standards the industry required.
After raising the bar while retaining
our competitive pricing, we can now
proudly say that Storm offers high-
class, industry-leading and cost-
effective training that doesn’t come at
a ridiculous premium.
Three values, five years
When I took over at the end of the
2012 financial year our business lost
close to £2.5 million. Over five years
of constant focus on what we do well
and removing unprofitable elements,
we managed to turn things around,
and at the end of the 2017 financial
year, closed with £1.6 million profit;
the hard work of everyone involved
at Storm has been instrumental to
every single step of that success. We
had previously concentrated just on
line maintenance – now we offer four
different broad categories of service
which complement one another.
To achieve this, we promote three
central values for all staff: safety,
quality and sustainability. Without any
one of those three pillars, we are dead
in the water. As a service provider, we
believe that any given company should
live by this mantra.
These values really did propel the
move to our new premises in Stansted,
which, in turn, laid the foundations
for our attaining the necessary
accreditations for base maintenance.
This process took around 18 months
to complete, and we soon started
looking for a solid, reliable base
maintenance contract. We set
about securing an agreement with
a major airline in the winter of that
year, and managed to do so. After
finalising a contract with Easyjet, we
could undoubtedly confirm that the
company was well on the way to full-
scale financial recovery with excellent
prospects for the future.
Service and excellence
We provide a quality service at a
competitive price, and have seen
organic growth with clients with whom
we now have long-term contracts.
Over the years, we have had to reach
out and attract airlines, including
Emirates, Etihad and Lufthansa; the
kind of demand and quality they
require is monumental, and the
service we provide often necessitates a
personal relationship.
The aviation world comprises a
relatively small and well-informed
network; reputation is key. We have
won contracts where we have pushed
The Diamond Hangar: large
enough for two 747s
Aviation is
incredibly well
regulated;
anyone
involved either
directly or
indirectly has
to adhere to
regulations
that are
designed to
uphold the
strictest of
safety
standards
43STORM AVIATION GROUP |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2018
and pushed to ensure high levels of
service and demonstrable success,
then used that momentum and our
clients’ reputation to experience
further growth. We get the kind of
clients we do as a result of our hard
work and philosophy of continuous
improvement.
Of course, within such a tight-
knit circuit, trade shows and other
conventions do matter. Getting
yourself known in circles such as
the International Airline Technical
Pool (IATP) conference, where 110
global airlines are generally present,
is arguably beneficial. Our success
and effort has also truly reached a
demonstrable milestone at these
events; I was the conference’s opening
speaker both this March in Riga and
last March in Dublin.
Turning it around
The first obstacle to overcome was
straightforward: we just weren’t
succeeding financially. The journey to
recovery has been no easy one, but
after a long and tumultuous period of
reorganisation, we stripped everything
down and broke even in 2013.
From this foundation, we could truly
rebuild – after overcoming all those
challenges and hurdles along the way,
we are now profitable each year and
successful with year-on-year growth at
all levels.
We face the same challenge every day,
however, in airline price cuts. When
tickets get cheaper, it has a ripple
effect for everyone else involved in the
industry. There are such strict and high
safety requirements that everyone has
to operate to, and being as efficient
and effective as possible is no easy
feat. We already deal in a low-margin,
high-volume business, and we cannot
cut corners. Airlines pay, but they do
expect you to drive innovations and
efficiencies. It’s not always an easy
balance to strike.
Planning for an uncertain
future
Brexit is unavoidable for the UK
aviation industry and the road ahead
is far from clear; we have acted
promptly to mitigate associated risks
as best we can. We maintain aircraft
to EASA standards and accreditations;
considering their nature as a European
body, the future is uncertain in our
industry. A lot of countries recognise
EASA requirements, but the future
depends, in part, on how open the
communication channels are.
As a result, we are striving to plan for
every possible eventuality – whether
or not we remain fully governed by
EASA standards, accept and recognise
EASA without fully embracing them
or decide to operate from Europe
under our German entity, we have
an all-encompassing slew of plans in
place to cope with whatever the future
brings. Regardless of whatever Brexit
agreement is finalised, we will continue
to deliver the quality and excellence
we’re known for now, while remaining
ultimately profitable.
Brexit is
unavoidable
for the UK
aviation
industry and
the road
ahead is far
from clear; we
have acted
promptly to
mitigate
associated
risks as best
we can
Satisfaction guaranteed at
Storm Aviation