The maintenance, repair and overhaul market in India, already growing at an estimated 15% annually, is set to receive a further boost.
The country's first aircraft painting facility equipped to carry out the painting of widebody and narrowbody aircraft will swing into operation around mid-year at the industrial hub of Hosur, near Bengaluru.
This painting facility will be part of the Airlines MRO division of Mumbai-based Air Works India, thought to be the largest general aviation MRO in India, with a 30% market share and history of servicing business jets.
Division vice-president K V Krishnan says the facility will leverage the repainting, interior repair and refurbishment expertise of UK firm Air Livery, Europe's largest aircraft refinishing company - which Air Works controls via an 85% shareholding - and also adhere to stringent global standards similar to those of Air Livery's UK operations.
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The Hosur facility, which will have the capacity for two narrowbodies or one widebody, up to and including Airbus A340-600s and Boeing 777-300s, will obviate the need for Indian carriers to fly their aircraft to Singapore or Dubai for repainting.
Civil aviation industry analysts estimate that Indian carriers spend some $700 million annually on MRO work outside India, including most activity beyond ordinary line maintenance.
India's fast-growing civil aviation industry - estimates have Indian passenger numbers trebling to 362 million by 2020, with more than 1,000 passenger aircraft in service - suggests the country should become an attractive global MRO destination.
A recent analysis by the Aeronautical Society of India estimates that the MRO market in India is poised to grow from less than $1 billion today to about $2.6 billion by 2020.
The major MRO segments in terms of value will be engines, airframes, components and line maintenance. Over the next decade, India may surge ahead of current global market leaders in North America and western Europe, according to Kapil Arora, partner (infrastructure practices) at Ernst & Young.
"The opportunities and challenges for India are to position itself as a complete regional MRO hub, servicing the broader Asia-Pacific region through the advantages of faster turnaround time, a rich pool of engineering expertise and lower labour costs," he says.
However, the industry believes the New Delhi government is holding back its ambitions to move into heavy maintenance, and is calling for the end of customs duties on imported spares as well as a tax on services.
"This reduces the competitiveness of the sector compared to global peers based out of [the] Middle East or South-East Asia," says Air Works managing director Vivek Gour.
Krishnan argues that high taxes - including too many from different authorities - along with lack of encouragement from government agencies and the absence of an industry regulator have all conspired to hold back India from taking a more prominent position in the MRO world.
Krishnan says that with "a little fine tuning and proactive policies from the government", the country could easily emerge as a cost-effective MRO hub on account of the abundance of relatively cheap manpower.
As an MRO industry veteran, Krishnan rues the fact that most Indian carriers continue to send aircraft to "out-of-India destinations" for high-end checks and maintenance when Air Works is capable of doing the work.
Underscoring the need for government action to support the sector, he notes that Air Works is ready to build on its business jet expertise by investing in airliner heavy maintenance capability when Indian carriers are ready to have the work done in India.
Performing the work locally should save carriers time and money, if only by reducing the maintenance turnaround time.
Air Works maintains more than 50 types of aircraft for 100 customers from 12 locations. It may expand to offer MRO services to the Indian military.
The company is already an authorised service centre for AgustaWestland, Bell, Bombardier, Embraer, Garmin, Gulfstream, Honeywell, Rockwell Collins and SuperJet International.
Air Works India will open its new aircraft paintshop in mid-year
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