ABX parents moves forward with MRO unit

Washington DC
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Air Transport Services Group (ASTG) has formalized plans for a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) venture while it waits for access to at least two hangars at the DHL-owned airpark in Wilmington, Ohio.

Contingent upon access, Airborne Maintenance and Engineering Services will offer heavy maintenance, component repair and engineering and manufacturing services. While fellow ASTG subsidiary ABX Air does its own maintenance and extends the service to customers, MRO has not been a standalone business for ASTG.

Plans come as DHL has been in discussions with local officials about turning over the airpark, which also consists of two runways, ramp parking for 126 aircraft and eight sort buildings.

"We're going on the assumption we will have access to the airport," an ABX spokeswoman says. However, a launch has not been set for the startup, she says.

To bolster the effort, the Ohio Department of Development awarded Airborne Maintenance and Engineering Services a job-creation tax credit worth close to $3.9 million.

The new business is expected to create 430 jobs in Wilmington, where ABX cut more than 2,000 jobs across all divisions after DHL decided to end US domestic operations starting in January.

ABX cut nearly 4,000 jobs in total as the 16 hubs it operated for DHL customer closed.

While the new MRO unit waits for an airpark decision, ABX awaits clarity from DHL as the company does not know DHL's plans going forward or how ABX might fit into those plans, an ABX source says.

Twenty-seven of ABX Air's 44 Boeing 767F aircraft are contractually obligated to DHL until August 2010, the source says.

DHL could not be immediately reached for comment.