As Ryanair introduces its 100th Boeing 737-800, the airline is preparing to begin disposing of its oldest examples of the Next Generation twinjet. The carrier has also confirmed that in the next six months it will launch a joint-venture maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) operation in Poland or Latvia in conjunction with a major international third-party maintenance company.

Ryanair's 100th 737-800 W445

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Five 737-800s that Ryanair bought from Boeing in 1999 will shortly be put on the market, says deputy chief executive Howard Millar. This is part of a programme aimed at keeping the average fleet age low, Millar says, adding that the airline’s net fleet expansion will continue at the rate of 30-40 of the same type each year by exercising additional options to add to its already healthy firm orderbook for the type.

Millar points out that Ryanair owns 83% of its fleet, with the remainder on an operating lease. The carrier gains multiple advantages from replacing older aircraft with the latest versions of the same marque, including the fact that its initial agreement with Boeing gives it an advantageous price that now looks even more attractive than it did in 1999, as it can buy the aircraft for a lower sum in euros. Meanwhile, its new 737s come with a five-year manufacturer’s warranty and cheap financing through the US Ex-Im Bank.

Ryanair says its partner in the eastern European MRO venture does not wish to be named, but Flight International’s sister on-line service Air Transport Intelligence has established it is Singapore Technologies Aerospace. The airline says the new maintenance base will be in either Riga, Latvia or Rzeszov, Poland. From April 2007 Ryanair expects to use it to carry out the C and D check heavy maintenance on its own 737-800s. In addition to that, the plant will offer third-party heavy maintenance on widebodies like 747s, but Ryanair will not have any equity in that part of the organisation, says Millar.

Engineering director Michael Hickey says the three- or four-bay 737 facility will be owned by Ryanair, but run by the partner company. He says there is a growing shortage of MRO capacity in Europe, which is “what makes this a good investment for Ryanair”.


Source: Flight International