BA could develop 787 maintenance capability: Walsh

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British Airways is yet to decide whether to develop in-house maintenance capability for its incoming fleet of 24 Boeing 787s, the first of which is due to arrive in 2012.

Speaking at Aviation Week's MRO Europe event in London, the airline's chief Willie Walsh said it would maintain the aircraft itself if it could do so profitably, adding that this "interesting debate" would be "addressed over the next 12 months".

The investment in 787 capability would be "significant" as the aircraft is a completely new type requiring a completely new set of skills, and investment would coincide with capital expenditure on new aircraft, Walsh acknowledges. Nonetheless, BA's engineering department has been set the challenge of exploring whether maintenance on the type can viably be performed internally.

The same applies to the Airbus A380, with BA set to receive the first of 12 in 2013. However, Walsh concedes the possibility that the fleet is "suboptimal in terms of doing maintenance ourselves", with the level of required investment again "significant".

Walsh confirms that one of eight temporarily-retired Boeing 747s is going through checks ahead of a return to service, and that a second is due to follow it back into operation. However, he does not expect a significant number of additional 747s to come back next year, given the scheduled growth of the carrier's 777-300ER fleet.