With the planned maintenance, repair and overhaul approval for Airbus A320s due to be granted by October, US maintenance provider Ascent Aviation Services is gearing up for business expansion in Latin America.

Most work for the Tucson, Arizona-based company still comes from North America, but Rick Townsend, senior vice-president sales and business development, says that revenue from Latin American clients has started to increase faster than turnover from its home market.

Building relationships with customers in Latin America may take "a little bit more time", he says. But Townsend thinks that this is only because of the region's lack of familiarity with a relatively new MRO provider. Once links and partnerships have been established, the initial effort will be "well worth" the returns, he says.

Ascent started operations in November 2009 after its parent - Chicago-based investment company Victory Park Capital - acquired the assets of narrowbody maintenance company Hamilton Aerospace Technologies and aircraft parts support specialist World Jet at Tucson International Airport.

The new owner took on some of the former staff and continued focusing on the existing expertise for Boeing 737s and MD-80s. But the original management was entirely replaced, says Townsend.

The MRO provider also services the later Boeing MD-90 and 717 aircraft as well as Bombardier CRJ100/200 regional jets. Boeing 727s can also still be maintained. But Townsend says that support requests for the venerable trijet have petered out as even freight and private jet operators have retired the type.

A320 maintenance is important for future growth, however - especially as narrowbodies make up the majority of the current and future fleet in Latin America. Townsend is currently building up its MRO capability for the twinjet and expects to be granted US Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency approval for working on the type "within the next six months".

Ascent has already broken up A320s and trained staff to support the narrowbody. But tools and testing equipment are still needed to maintain the aircraft. Townsend says that while the MRO provider has ordered the equipment, "unfortunately there are some very long lead times" for some of the necessary products.

Aside from the largest revenue driver, airframe MRO, Ascent also conducts line maintenance at Tucson International Airport, aircraft storage and recycling, and - driven by the latter - spare part supply.

Townsend says that Ascent's geographical location offers good business prospects in both North and South America. But he does not rule out the possibility of the company looking at other locations in future. "Obviously we see the growth opportunity here for Tucson International," he says. "But as we will [move] forward into the future airframe MRO business, we will look for opportunities to grow and expand the services that we provide for our current customers as well as new customers that we will work with in the future."

Source: Flight Daily News