Shanghai Technologies Aerospace (STARCO), a China-based maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) centre, plans to begin the construction of its Airbus A380-capable hangar at Shanghai's Pudong International Airport by the of the year.

The company, a joint venture between Singapore Technologies Aerospace (ST Aero) and China Eastern Airlines, aims to start operations at the facility in 2009. It now does heavy maintenance at the domestic Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, where its two hangars can house two narrowbodies and two widebodies at any one time.

Singapore-based ST Aero's president Tay Kok Khiang says that delays in obtaining regulatory approvals held back the start of construction. The company, which has a 49% stake in STARCO, said when it started up the joint venture in 2004 that it hoped to have the Pudong facility ready by 2006.

"The land in Pudong was controlled by the central government. Getting the regulatory approvals and controls took time, things did not go as fast as we wanted it to. But the problems are over now," says Tay.

The hangar will focus mainly on widebody work as most carriers fly into Pudong using larger aircraft. The company plans to eventually add capacity to handle three widebodies and increase the amount of third-party work that it takes on, says Tay. "We are not building a facility in China just for the Chinese airlines. A big focus of the joint venture is to support global airlines that fly into China," he points out.

Tay adds that the company expects to sign a contract soon with a "global airline to provide maintenance on a nose-to-tail basis". Apart from working on aircraft operated by China Eastern and its subsidiaries, STARCO has also won third-party contracts from independent Chinese carrier Spring Airlines, Turkish cargo airline Kuzu Airlines, and Malaysian cargo carrier Transmile Air Services.

Source: Flight International