Air Works Boosts India’s Bizav Support Infrastructure Despite Political Inertia

 - May 14, 2012, 1:50 PM
Air Works is expanding its maintenance, repair and overhaul capability in its home market of India.

Air Works is India’s only exhibitor at this year’s EBACE show­–perhaps surprising, given the high expectations for business aviation growth in that country and the fact that EBACE’s catchment area has been extending eastward in recent years.

Election fever is mounting in India–despite the fact that voting is still two years away–and, according to some commentators, the country is suffering from what is being termed as a “policy paralysis,” which is holding back long-anticipated reform of the aviation industry. Against this backdrop, companies such as Air Works are moving ahead with expansion plans in spite of Indian government atrophy.

In fact, the maintenance repair and overhaul specialist has its sights firmly set on Europe itself. Its existing Air Livery subsidiary in the UK (which does aircraft painting and cabin repairs and refurbishment) is soon to be complimented by the opening of another painting facility at Bratislava in Slovakia during July. It has further plans to expand in the European market and these could be announced soon.

“We felt it is time for Indian aviation to make its presence felt,” managing director Vivek Gour told AIN. “We feel this show is more international than NBAA.”

Starting in 2015 Air Works (Stand 2220) wants to be engaged in heavy maintenance of business jets in Europe. Frustrated by restrictive government policy in India, it is also considering plans to set up an MRO facility at a tax-free location in the Arabian Gulf that would be staffed by Indians.

At last year’s EBACE show the company signed a preliminary agreement with Abu Dhabi’s Al Bateen Executive Airport with a view to opening a facility there. Now it is considering this move among other potential locations in the region, such as Oman, where the government has expressed an interest in attracting aviation companies.

“Today India is viewed for lack of quality and ability. Our focus now is to become a definitive player in heavy maintenance for general aviation,” said Gour.

Increasing Maintenance Capabilities

In India, Air Works has expanded its business by doing line maintenance for international airlines at six stations. It is also moving into cities like Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Nagpur and Madurai, each of which has the potential to support several business aircraft. “We are undertaking annual maintenance contracts by optimizing work skills using engineers with multi-skill certifications,” explained associate marketing vice president Dhiraj Chhabra. The 60-year-old company already claims to hold a 30- to 40-percent share of the general aviation MRO sector in India.

Currently, it is working with both Bombardier and Embraer to develop a $2 million maintenance facility with up to C-check level capability at a private airfield in Hosur, near Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore). This has been conceived primarily with the Western airframers’ regional airliner families in mind, but the 32,500-sq-ft facility will be large enough for bigger business jets.

Air Works also recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Embraer to establish parts depot for all of the OEM’s executive jets in service in India. The Indian company will house parts for the Embraer Phenom 100, Legacy 600/650 and Lineage 1000 in its facility in Bengaluru, which will serve as a central hub from which the parts will be dispatched to eight Embraer authorized service centers (EASC), complementing the role of Embraer’s existing Asia Pacific distribution center in Singapore.

Of India’s assorted fleet of 425 general aviation aircraft, about 125 are executive jets, and half of them are preowned. Since the Directorate General of Civil Aviation requires separate Indian certification for every model, Air Works initially has identified 12 commonly used types for which it offers heavy maintenance checks. They include Hawker Beechcraft jets, Dassault’s Falcon 2000 family, Bell 407 and 206 helicopters and Bombardier’s Challengers. It is now in the process of acquiring approval from the European Aviation Safety Agency for its Mumbai and Delhi facilities. “While, technically, we do not need EASA, it is accepted as a stamp of quality,” said Gour.

The company has already carried out heavy maintenance checks the Bell 206 and 407 and three business jets, including a Hawker 800 and a Bombardier Challenger 600. By the end of this year, it plans to have completed approximately 12 to 15 heavy maintenance checks at its Mumbai and Delhi hangars, said Gour. Air Works expects to have more than 20 clients by 2013. “Then, we’ll be in business,” he said.