Lockheed Martin Aircraft Argentina (LMAAS) expects to begin maintenance work on its first Boeing 737-200 by the end of this month, a crucial step in the company's strategy to diversify into commercial repair and overhaul of airliners and civil engines.

The second landmark is expected in late September, when the Cordoba-based concern plans to open a support centre for the Pratt & Whitney JT8D engine.

LMAAS president James Taylor says: "We should be selecting a contractor in April to upgrade the test cell. We have the bids in and they look possible." The 737 work, which will be concentrated initially on "Classic" models, will start with a "B" check on a -200.

Although tailored to current growth of the 737-200 fleet in Argentina, LMAAS plans to capitalise on the regional build-up of the later "Classic" 737-300/400/500 fleets as well as the Next Generation aircraft entering service around Latin America. The company is to adapt part of its engine overhaul site to support the CFM International CFM56 "late next year".

Structures work for a Lockheed L1011-40 freighter conversion programme being developed by its parent company in the USA will add to the civil work, although attempts to get work on DaimlerChrysler Aerospace Airbus' A300/310 cargo conversion programme have stalled, Taylor says.

Source: Flight International