Mumbai: Chennai will have an exclusive maintenance and repair shop for all small passenger and private planes by next year.
The Madurai-based Paramount business group, promoter of premium airline Paramount Airways Pvt. Ltd, plans a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility for regional jets at the Chennai airport, initially investing $50 million, or a little less than Rs200 crore.
The repair facility will handle regional planes of all makes as well as business jets.
Regional jets are small planes designed to fly 35-100 passengers on short-haul routes. Such jets include Embraer (manufactured by Embraer SA of Brazil), Bombardier CRJs (Bombardier Inc.), ATR (Avions de Transport Regional of France), and Sukhoi Superjet 100 (Sukhoi Aviation Holding Co. of Russia).
Demand for such planes is expected to soar in the coming years as the government encourages the setting up of regional airlines to fly short-haul routes connecting smaller Indian cities with larger metros.
“This facility will be handling all types of regional planes such as Embraers and Bombardiers. Necessary space was allotted by the airport authorities for the MRO, that is expected to be operational by third quarter of 2008,” said M. Thiagarajan, managing director of Paramount Airways.
Thiagarajan, who is also managing director of Paramount Mills (Pvt.) Ltd, said this would be an independent venture by his group.
Manufacturers of bigger planes such as the US’ Boeing Co. and Toulouse, France-based Airbus SAS are setting up MROs for repairing their aircraft in Nagpur and Bangalore, respectively. Currently, the planes have to fly to Singapore or Dubai for major any repair and maintenance.
The initial plan of Paramount Airways, which operates Embraer planes, was to set up a repair shop with the Brazilian firm. “The proposed MRO will handle all types of regional jets, not only Embraer planes. We are talking to international MRO operators in Switzerland, the UK and the US,” Thiagarajan said.
He said this MRO company, which will also handle business and luxury jets of less than 20 seats capacity, will not restrict itself to planes in India but will also explore regional markets around the country.
“Having an MRO for all type of smaller planes is a sensible move. But lot of plane makers and airlines have announced MRO projects, though there is no scope for these many MROs,” said a Mumbai-based aviation analyst, who did not want to be named as he is not authorized to speak to the media. “There is no full-fledged MRO for business jets till now though there are more than 150 private jets.”
Leading business jet makers include Bombardier, Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., Dassault Falcon Jet Corp., Embraer and Cessna Aircraft Co. Some of their Indian customers are Reliance Industries Ltd, Reliance ADA Group, Tata group, Sun TV Network Ltd, Taj Air, Emaar MGF Land Pvt. Ltd, Bharat Forge Ltd, Raymonds Ltd, VRL Logistics Ltd, Hindustan Constructions Ltd, DS Constructions Ltd and Punj Lloyd Ltd.
Recently, Taneja Aerospace and Aviation Ltd, an aero structure-making unit that is part of Pune-based Indian Seamless group, and Sabena Technics TAT of France formed a joint venture company to set up an MRO at Hosur, a border town in Tamil Nadu, targeting aircraft such as the ATR 42/72. It may also repair mid-size commercial jets such as Boeing’s 737 and the A320 of Airbus.
Airline companies such as Jet Airways India Ltd, GoAirlines (India) Pvt. Ltd and Kingfisher Airlines Ltd are planning to set up MROs, while state-carrier Air India has joined Boeing and Airbus. Leading MRO operator Lufthansa Technik AG has decided to partner the GMR Group, which is building a new international airport at Hyderabad, to set up an MRO shop.