Azul to open heavy maintenance facility at Campinas

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Brazil's Azul plans to construct a heavy maintenance facility at its Campinas base that will be capable of overhauling its fleet of Embraer E-190/195s and future fleet of ATR 72-600s.

The low-cost carrier currently only has a line maintenance capability and uses TAP Maintenance & Engineering Brazil to perform light and heavy checks on its fast-growing E-Jet fleet. But Azul CEO Pedro Janot reveals the carrier is seeking approval from Brazilian airport operator Infraero to build a 40,000m2 multiple-bay heavy maintenance hangar at Campinas.

"We're now discussing with Infraero where we can put the hangar," Janot told Flightglobal in a 20 July interview.

Janot says that Azul hopes to open the maintenance hangar by the end of next year. But he adds that while "our conversations with Infraero are going fast" the project's pace is contingent on reaching an agreement with the airport operator.

Unlike Sao Paulo's other two airports, Campinas has plenty of space for growth including land set aside for potential maintenance hangars. "In this area there is space for many hangars for many companies," Janot says.

He says Azul already has 200 mechanics which currently perform line maintenance on the carrier's fleet of 10 E-190s and eight E-195s without the use of a hangar.

The first 6,000hr heavy check on an Azul E-190 was performed earlier this year by TAP Brazil in Porto Alegre. After securing a contract from Azul, TAP Brazil decided to introduce heavy maintenance capability for E-Jets and in May became the first Embraer authorised service centre in Latin America.

Janot says Azul plans to continue its relationship with TAP Brazil because Azul will not have enough capacity at its new MRO facility to handle its entire fleet. "Our growth is so strong we can use both," Janot says.

Azul earlier this week placed orders for five more E-195s, lifting its commitment to 41 firm E-Jets plus 40 options including aircraft already delivered. Azul now plans to end this year with a fleet 10 E-190s and 16 E-195s.

Janot says the carrier plans to take delivery of 12 additional E-195s every year as it continues to rapidly expand its domestic network. He says if Azul elects to exercise all its options with Embraer, the carrier's E-190/195 fleet will reach 86 aircraft at the end of 2015.

Azul so far has only contracted TAP Brazil to complete 4,000hr and 6,000hr checks on 15 E-190/195s between March 2010 and March 2011. TAM MRO, which is planning to introduce E-Jet maintenance capabilities next year and is now also talking to Embraer about becoming an authorised service centre, has said it plans to pursue work from Azul once the carrier's contract with TAP Brazil expires.

But Janot says Azul has no plans to use TAM MRO and the carrier instead envisions continuing to use TAP Brazil after the current contract ends next March. "We continue talks to develop that relationship," Janot says.

Janot says Azul also envisions using TAP Brazil rather than TAM to support its new ATR fleet. Azul, which on 20 July announced an order for 20 ATR 72-600s plus 20 options, plans to add its first turboprop next year. Janot says ATR maintenance will likely be done at the carrier's new Campinas facility as well as by TAP Brazil.

TAM MRO introduced ATR heavy maintenance capabilities in June. Brazilian regional carrier TRIP, which already has an MRO hangar at Campinas, also has heavy maintenance capability for the ATR. TRIP is also a new E-Jet operator but for now does not plan to add a heavy maintenance capability for the type.