SHANGHAI: Boeing yesterday opened an aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) two-bay hangar at Pudong International Airport as scheduled despite the sluggish aviation market.
The hangar, capable of housing two B747 airplanes, is also the first MRO facility at the airport.
“China and Asia are the global leaders in aviation growth and the newly expanded facility provides an incredible opportunity to support these expanding fleets throughout their lifecycle,” said Lou Mancini, senior vice-president for commercial aviation services at Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
The factory is operated by Boeing Shanghai Aviation Services Co, a joint venture in which the US aircraft manufacturer controls a 60-percent stake, while Shanghai Airport Authority and Shanghai Airlines respectively hold the remaining 25-percent and 15-percent stake. It is the first time Boeing has taken a controlling share in an MRO joint venture. It is also China’s first foreign-controlled MRO facility.
The joint venture was launched in 2006 and used to lease a hangar from Shanghai Airlines to perform line maintenance and heavy maintenance check services.
Boeing declined to say how much investment was involved.
John Bruns, Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ vice-president for China operations, called the opening of the hangar a “strategic move” for Boeing. The global MRO industry is suffering from lower demand as lots of airlines choose to ground their older fleets to save costs.
“This is a long-term investment. We believe we should get ready when the market comes back,” said Bruns.
The factory now provides an MRO service to B737 airplanes and will expand its service offerings to twin-aisle aircraft. Another major task is to convert B767 passenger jets into freighters. But Boeing declined to give a timeline for the passenger-to-freighter conversion project.
The sharp drop in air cargo traffic as a result of declining world trade has resulted in lower demand for freighter jets. International freight traffic started to decline in April 2008 before the passenger markets were hit. Cargo traffic fell by 9.6 percent year-on-year in August, according to the latest figures from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The new facility is expected to improve Pudong airport’s service during the World Expo to be held next year in Shanghai, said Li Derun, executive vice-president of Shanghai Airport Authority.
“It is necessary for Pudong airport to have a world class, high quality MRO plant if it is going to become a major international aviation hub,” Li said.
China Eastern Airlines operates an MRO facility at Hongqiao International Airport.