Pratt, China Eastern to open CFM56 MRO facility in '09

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A new engine maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) business being established in Shanghai under a joint venture between Pratt & Whitney (P&W) and China Eastern Airlines is expected to open in the next six months, despite the region's current economic woes.

The facility, which will handle CFM International CFM56 engines, was originally slated to be operational in 2008, but the process was delayed due to issues associated with the Beijing Olympics and earthquakes in China, says a P&W spokesman.

"At one point when groundbreaking took place, they thought it would open by the end of 2008 but it will be the first part of 2009 when it will open," he says, specifying that it will be the "first half" of 2009.

P&W Global Service Partners and China Eastern in December 2005 disclosed they had signed a memorandum of understanding to establish an engine MRO centre in Shanghai that would initially focus on CFM56 engines.

One year later, they announced they were proceeding with plans for the facility and revealed that Shanghai-based China Eastern had awarded P&W a 15-year maintenance service agreement to maintain the airline's CFM56 engines.

The carrier's fleet includes CFM56-powered Airbus A320 family aircraft and Boeing 737s.

In addition to engine work for China Eastern, the centre will provide MRO for third-party customers across the Asia-Pacific.

China Eastern has been struggling financially of late. The carrier is to receive a cash injection from its state-owned parent, CEA Holding, through the issue of new shares to help it cope with growing losses.

At the same time, Chinese carriers are under pressure from the government to curb capacity growth by delaying or cancelling aircraft due for delivery next year, grounding some aircraft and withdrawing older aircraft.

Despite current industry turmoil, P&W remains optimistic about growth in the Asia/Pacific region. The P&W spokesman points to the forthcoming Shanghai MRO centre as evidence of this confidence.