Monday, January 2, 2012

EXCLUSIVE! Air Works expands General Aviation portfolio to heavy maintenance

Neelam Mathews

With slots full for the year, as commercial narrow bodies start to come in for C4 and C6 checks for A320s to India’s leading third party provider, Air Works India Engineering, the company is focusing on improving its engineering capability in India for heavy maintenance for business jets.

The bets are clearly placed on general aviation jets. “Profit margins are directly proportionate to the prosperity of the client as the owner is willing to pay for quality….he won’t nickel and dime you,” says a candid Vivek. N. Gour, CEO Air Works India Engineering to Show News.

The going is not easy despite its six decades of experience in business aviation. With diverse models in India- Air Works maintains over 80 - each that requires a cumbersome clearance and certification by model, by check. The company has identified 8-9 models including Hawker Beechcraft- 7,8 and 9 series and Dassault Falcon (2000, 2000L), for which it will develop capability for training and tooling, and hire expat Indians returning home to India. 

Other aircraft types identified by Air Works for building heavy maintenance capability in the short term include Challenger (300 and 604), Cessna Citation Jet (560XL, 525/525A, 550 Bravo) and Hawker Beechcraft Turboprops (King Air C-90 and Super King Air B200).

The project will be ready to take off by end of 2012. Since Hawkers form a large part of India’s inventory with Bombardier a close second, the initial focus will be on these models. Many Hawker 400s flying in India for ten years are now starting to go for checks and landing gear changes. “Take the Phenom 100 that entered the market last year. There is no point in developing capability now that will needed after 8 years,” says Gour.

As General aviation jets start to reach mid-life (10 years, Air Works says there is a niche to be filled for landing gears which it will be developing at its Bangalore-based Hosur facility and at Mumbai  A custom bonded store is also being planned.

By starting lead checks that come in every 4th, 6th and 8th years, the company is expected to score in a business where there is no provider with the the capability. “Presently, a Hawker Pacific has to fly to Singapore or Dubai. Not only does this cost $10-20million, time is also lost. This is where the margins are……,” says Gour.

“There is no reason why we should not also look at the Middle East market as Jet Aviation and ExecuJet are both overbooked. Slots are getting difficult to get. Customers are getting tired of getting kicked around by MROs in Europe. If a European client wants a slot on an 8-year lead check for a Falcon 50 for instance in Dubai – a 4-hour flight, customers are now willing to send their aircraft to India, just another one and a half hours away,” adds Gour.  The convenience outweighs the costs- lower by 5-10%, he explains.

The company is also looking at setting up a hangar in East Europe. “The society is in transition and we find challenge in change and hope to get the first mover-advantage as presently hangars are available and are available at a lower cost.”

India’s reputation of its inability to deliver quality, is changing. Recently, Air Works conducted a 4-year check on a Hawker 800 for a UK-based client. “This was as a result of word by mouth,” says Gour. And the trend is catching on, he says.

Growth in India continues to be restricted because of lack of infrastructural constraints. Parking is a major issue. In Mumbai- the commercial capital of India where a large number of general aviation jets have to be parked in the open,  four months of incessant unrelenting rain, creates major problems. “Unless the aircraft are flying, we have to get them back and running.” 

Where does Gour see Air Works in five years? “We would like to be well-entrenched in GA jets and helicopters maintenance in India and the Middle East (ME) in deep heavy maintenance. From ME, we can start addressing CIS and North Africa……” adds Gour.

For the DGCA certified CAR-145 and CAMO (Continuous Airworthiness Management Organization) for maintenance and management of fixed and rotary wing aircraft provider with capabilities ranging from single and twin- engined helicopters to turbo-props and jet engine aircraft encompassing both line and heavy maintenance services for numerous OEMs, this is hardly a distant dream.

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