MROE: TAM seeks partner for future engine overhaul shop

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Brazilian maintenance provider TAM MRO has plans to double its business over the next five years and venture into engine overhaul with a yet-to-be determined partner.

Currently generating nearly $200 million a year, annual sales should "at least double" until the middle of the decade, executive director Luiz Gustavo Figueiredo da Silva told Flightglobal at Aviation Week's MRO Europe 2011 conference in Madrid.

This is part of a 10-year development plan, covering efficiency improvement initiatives, more third-party work and the expansion of company's facility in São Carlos, approximately 155mi (250km) northwest of São Paulo.

The maintenance provider is building four hangars to accommodate three narrowbody and one widebody aircraft. The new facilities are due to be completed in 2012 - in time for the planned beginning of Boeing 777 base maintenance.

Before the heavy airframe can start, however, it will be necessary to extend the existing runway to accommodate the long-haul twinjet. This is currently not possible at the non-commercial airfield, which is mainly used by TAM MRO.

Figueiredo da Silva is confident, however, that the runway extension will be completed next year.

TAM MRO also plans to venture into engine maintenance and establish an overhaul shop in future, although is not part of the 10-year growth plan.

Given Latin America's large fleet of 737 and Airbus A320 family aircraft as well as the region's still limited engine overhaul capacity, it is no surprise that the planned facility will focus on CFM International CFM56 and International Aero Engines V2500 powerplants. TAM MRO commercial manager Rogério Watanabe said that the shop will support "narrowbody engines".

The maintenance company is currently looking for a strategic partner. Figueiredo da Silva said there are "at least 10" potential parties - both on the manufacturer side as well as from within the airline-affiliated/independent MRO sector - with whom it would be possible to realise the project.

A central factor would be to simplify the import of foreign engines into Brazil. Current customs regulations require the payment of duties but, more significantly, add to the turnaround time due to lengthy administrative processes.

TAM MRO is therefore pushing to register the airfield as an international airport, which could ideally lead to a customs-free zone for the MRO facility.

Figueiredo da Silva thinks this could become reality in early 2012.