Brazil's TAM plans to add maintenance capability for regional aircraft, starting with the ATR 42/72 and likely expanding into Embraer E-Jets.

TAM MRO vice president Ruy Amparo told Flightglobal on the sidelines of the MRO Americas conference that TAM plans to "take on" the ATR 42 maintenance capability of Pantanal, a small regional carrier TAM acquired at the end of last year. While Pantanal only operates a fleet of five ATR 42s, Amparo says there are a lot of opportunities in the Latin America and Caribbean region for ATR third-party maintenance work.

Amparo says TAM's maintenance unit is also "looking very carefully at the E-170 and E-190" and "that's probably next" as the company looks to add more capability to its portfolio. TAM's MRO business, which last year secured FAA certification, recently added Boeing 767 and 777 overhaul capabilities.

TAM began operating 767s and 777s in 2008. The carrier is now looking at acquiring E-190/195s as part of an evaluation of new aircraft in the 100 to 150-seat category which will be operated by Pantanal. But Amparo says that even if TAM does not acquire E-190/195s it sees opportunities to enter the E-Jet third-party MRO market to serve Latin America's fast-growing E-Jet fleet.

Adding regional aircraft capability is part of a drive at TAM's maintenance unit to increase third-party revenues. Amparo says last year third-party accounted for 15% of the maintenance unit's total revenues. "It was zero a few years ago," he says.

TAM has big ambitions for its maintenance unit, which was formally separated from the airline last year. Amparo says the maintenance business is now independent from the airline and "now we see TAM as a customer".

Now that TAM has completed separating its maintenance unit from the airline business, TAM could pursue an initial public offering for the MRO company. Earlier this year TAM had a successful IPO for its former frequent flier unit. But Amparo says for the maintenance unit the more likely option is to pursue expansion with a strategic partner.

"We're talking to many people," he says, but declined to identify the potential partners.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news