DUBAI: Air Works plans MRO growth despite taxing circumstances

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Air Works India Engineering is planning to grow its MRO business with an additional hangar and overhaul shop for Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 turboprop engines.

The business and commercial aviation support specialist – which is headquartered in Gurgaon, near Delhi – is building a second hangar at Hosur airport. The site near Bangalore is used for base maintenance for Airbus A320s, Boeing 737s and ATR turboprops. The new facility should triple capacity from one narrowbody slot to three bays and also allow Air Works to support widebodies in future.

The MRO provider has plans to expand its capabilities to twin-aisle aircraft, which could be realised over the next two years, says chief executive Vivek Gour. But this will depend on market conditions. Air Works has a limited market reach as its Hosur base is located on a private airport. Domestic flights can land there, but aircraft arriving from outside India need to touch down first at an international hub for customs regulations before they can be ferried to Hosur.

This prevents most international airlines from using Air Works, which has FAA and EASA maintenance approvals. Gour says that the MRO provider has attracted some business from carriers in Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal and the Maldives. But he adds that the customs issue is the single biggest hurdle in the company's expansion plans.

Air Works considered renting hangars at the international airports of Delhi, Chennai and Ahmedabad – where the firm already has business aircraft support facilities – but the costs were prohibitive. The government leases for commercial aircraft hangars would lead to operating costs that would be twice has high as in the UK or France, says Gour.

Extending Hosur’s airfield licence to an international airport status is unlikely to happen within a reasonable timeframe either due to India’s bureaucracy, says Gour. However, he adds that the business can still grow in other areas. Earlier this year, Air Works took over French aircraft painting specialist Aero Technique Espace, after the group had acquired a 90% stake in UK painting specialist Air Livery in 2010.

Air Works’ annual revenues have grown from $5 million in 2008 to just over $100 million today. Over the next five years, Gour targets to reach a turnover of $250 million.

The MRO specialist also plans to set up an overhaul shop for PT6 turboprop engines. The first phase will be to provide intermediate maintenance over the next three years, while full overhaul is to be achieved around 2018. Around 25 technicians are to be employed to service up to 60 engines a year, with the custom being equally split between fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, says Gour.

The facility will be established in co-operation with an unnamed UK partner, and operated independently. Given the PT6 market volume, Gour says it is not necessary to become an manufacturer-authorised service centre.