Fairchild successor resurrects Metroliner parts business

 - October 4, 2007, 6:58 AM

Operators of Fairchild Metro and Merlin-series turboprops have long relied on a
loose amalgam of independent heavy maintenance shops and suppliers to support their aging–or downright elderly–fleets of the regional workhorses. M7 Aerospace, the San Antonio-based successor to Fairchild Aircraft and Dornier Aviation North America, hopes to change all that with its “Metro Mania” program, meant to retrieve much of the business the company’s former owners shed as part of a strategy to outsource all of its Metro parts manufacturing.

Residing in a 40,000-sq-ft manufacturing plant on San Antonio International Airport, M7 has turned its attention to fabricating new parts for the airplanes, the last of which rolled off the Fairchild assembly line on March 28, 2001, roughly a year before the company’s last owners filed for bankruptcy. Although only about 20 Metros still fly in the U.S. in scheduled airline service, more than 700 remain quite active in charter, freight and military roles, particularly in Canada, Latin America, Africa and Australia.

Still in the process of adding parts-fabrication capability, M7 has so far built roughly 1,000 formerly outsourced Metro parts, and projects that number to jump to 2,000 by the end of the year. Management believes the enterprise will reverse a trend in which low production by non-OEM suppliers and a lack of competition raised prices significantly over the past few years.

Now employing about 200 people, M7 has expanded a support staff of Metro experts in an effort to speed order processing, particularly for orders that may require some technical research. The company said it has also begun to upgrade its computer systems to further speed order fulfillment.

M7 plans to promote its Metro Mania initiative and conduct an open forum for Metro operators at the Metro Operators Conference scheduled for May 10 to 12
in San Antonio.