Earthquake forces Chile's Enaer to suspend aircraft component production

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Chilean aerospace manufacturer and aircraft maintenance company Enaer has been forced to suspend production of aircraft components for Airbus Military and Embraer in the aftermath of the devastating 27 February earthquake.

Enaer, which supplies part of the fuselage for the Airbus Military CN-235 and C-295 transports and part of the empennage for the Embraer ERJ-145/Legacy family, says there was no damage to work in progress when the 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck.

But some machinery was damaged and production work will not be able to resume until tooling, jigs and machines can be recalibrated. Enaer is aiming to resume production by 10 March.

Enaer also reports damage to its buildings, in particular ceilings, and computers, which could slow administrative functions. But its aircraft maintenance operation, which accounts for roughly half of its overall business, was able to resume almost immediately.

 © Enaer

Enaer primarily maintains military aircraft for the Chilean armed forces but also has some civilian and foreign military MRO customers. None of the aircraft that were at its maintenance hangars - at Santiago's commercial airport, Arturo Merino Benitez, and the El Bosque military base outside the capital - when the earthquake struck were damaged.

Chilean flag carrier LAN was not as fortunate. It says that five of its aircraft were damaged by the earthquake, although the extent of the damage was minor and repairs were quickly completed. LAN also reported "limited" damage to some of its buildings, spare parts and equipment.

When resuming a modified schedule after the earthquake, LAN was forced to use a makeshift tent to replace the international terminal building, which was damaged by the earthquake and remains closed. The carrier, which was also able to move some international flights to the less-damaged domestic terminal it reopened on 3 March, was able to resume nearly half of its normal Santiago schedule only five days after the earthquake.

But it is unclear how long it will take before normal operations can resume at Arturo Merino Benitez airport given the damage to the international terminal, including the customs and immigration area. Most international flights by LAN and foreign carriers, most of which resumed services to Santiago within a few days after the earthquake, are temporarily being routed through other Chilean airports that have working customs facilities.

Despite the damage at the country's main airport and to road and bridge infrastructure throughout central Chile, the government on 2 March decided to go forward with plans to hold the FIDAE air show on 23-28 March. FIDAE organisers stress that there was no damage to the show grounds, which is also at Arturo Merino Benitez airport.

The International Air Transport Air Association, which co-hosts an airline conference at FIDAE, applauded the decision to go forward with the show, calling it "a strong sign that Chile, its government and its aeronautical authorities are working together for the country to be able to rapidly recover from the damages occurred throughout the region".

The Chilean air force, which will be busy over the next few weeks with humanitarian missions including operating a 500km (310nm) air bridge set up to deliver supplies from Santiago to the much harder-hit city of Concepcion, is another major FIDAE supporter.