Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) is preparing to launch a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) venture at the DHL-owned airpark in Wilmington, Ohio, in May.

Airborne Maintenance and Engineering Services (AMES) will offer heavy maintenance, component repair and engineering and manufacturing services in the hangars currently occupied by its subsidiary ABX Air. Plans for ABX Air have been uncertain following the decision of the cargo operator's largest customer, DHL, to exit the US domestic market starting 30 January.

However, ABX Air's aircraft, crew maintenance and insurance (ACMI) arrangement with DHL runs through 15 August 2010; unless one-year notice is given stating otherwise, the ACMI will automatically renew for three years.

"DHL hasn't said what they want to do longer term. We felt we couldn't wait," ATSG CFO Quint Turner tells ATI.

While ABX Air provides its own maintenance and extends the service to customers, this will be the first time that ATSG will operate a standalone MRO business.

Turner says AMES will leverage existing ABX Air customers and provide maintenance for other ATSG subsidiaries.

ABX Air occupies three hangars and 100,000-square-ft (30,480 square meters) of shop space in Wilmington.

AMES initially intends to employ roughly 300 staff, a figure that could reach up to 425 by 2010, an ATSG spokeswoman says.

The move follows the Ohio Department of Development granting AMES a job-creation tax credit worth close to $3.9 million as ABX cut more than 2,000 jobs in Wilmington after DHL decided to end US domestic operations.

ABX eliminated nearly 4,000 jobs in total as the 16 hubs it operated for DHL closed.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news