IN FOCUS: Emirates builds up MRO footprint as fleet grows

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Emirates Engineering is building hangars at its maintenance facility at Dubai International Airport and broadening its repair capabilities to support its rapidly growing parent carrier.

Emirates' maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) division has mapped out its fleet support requirements until 2018, although the end of the forecast period will need to be adjusted after the airline's record-breaking order for 50 firm and 20 optional Boeing 777-300ERs at the Dubai air show in November.

While those aircraft will not be delivered in the near term, the existing order backlog - about 40 777s and 70 Airbus A380s as of November - demands additional capacity at the overhaul facility. Iain Lachlan, senior vice-president for aircraft maintenance, says Emirates has issued tenders for four hangars, scheduled to be completed in 2014.

emirates mro facility, emirates

 © Emirates

Emirates Engineering plans to build four hangars at its maintenance facility at Dubai International Airport and broaden its repair capabilities

 

They will house at least one additional line for C checks and separate bays for line maintenance and ad hoc repair work. The present site comprises seven A380-sized hangars, which were opened in 2007, plus a separate paint facility. However, the latest aircraft order suggests further expansion beyond the 11 maintenance bays which will be available by 2014 might be necessary in the medium- to long-term future.

Emirates is also building a greenfield engine overhaul shop adjacent to the engine test centre, which it opened about 40km from Dubai International Airport in 2009.

The first stage of the 21,000m² (70,000ft²) facility, which should eventually overhaul 300 General Electric GE90 and Engine Alliance GP7200 per year, is to open in the fourth quarter 2014. Construction is to due to begin early this year and will be supported by GE.

The airline already has a powerplant shop at its MRO base, but this is mainly used for engine module changes. Deeper repairs are carried out by the original equipment manufacturers (OEM) or Emirates staff with the OEM's help. The new facility will expand the in-house engine capabilities to include more overhaul tasks, but full independence will not be achieved for a while. "Some parts of the overhaul would require a certain amount of experience and investment," says Lachlan. "We will go in steps."

EXPANSION PLANS

As with its component MRO division, Emirates plans to support third-party customers in the new engine shop. The facility will have enough capacity to service engines beyond its own fleet, says Lachlan. "If we are able to gain business, then we will look at that [third-party engine MRO] as a possible opportunity," he adds.

Component repair is another area which the airline plans to expand. Not only will the overall capacity of the workshops have to adapt to the growing fleet, Emirates Engineering also wants to extend the technical capabilities if it promises benefits such as more efficient use of labour, better inventory management or shorter repair turnaround times. "That's not purely based on cost, but on our ability to support the [airline] product," says Lachlan.

Emirates Engineering plans to build four hangars at its maintenance facility at Dubai International Airport and broaden its repair capabilities