Etihad Expands Into Maintenance and Flight Training

 - May 21, 2014, 1:13 PM
Mubadala's Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies is to form the new maintenance, repair and overhaul division of Etihad Airways. [Photo: Mubadala]

At face value, the recent acquisition of Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies (ADAT) from Mubadala Development Co. by Etihad Airways is straightforward portfolio realignment between two state-owned entities in the United Arab Emirates. But Etihad’s reputation as an aggressive empire-builder with deep pockets to fund a string of airline buyouts suggests that the move is part of a wider master plan that will underpin the flag carrier’s prolific fleet growth and its ambitions to compete in the market for third-party maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services.

In a deal agreed on May 8, Etihad will pay an undisclosed amount to secure ADAT’s airframer maintenance business from Mubadala, which will retain the company’s engine overhaul division. The acquisition gives Etihad an established maintenance and engineering team, hangars, component workshops and aircraft painting facilities—all of it developed with significant launch capital from Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund.

Today, Etihad’s fleet consists of 96 aircraft, a number set to rise to 220 once a long backlog of jets on order is delivered. ADAT will provide it with in-house capability to support a fleet including the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 new generation widebodies.

Last November, Mubadala restructured its aviation holdings in a new Aerospace, Communications Technology and Defense Services division that included ADAT. The group also includes composites manufacturing specialist Strata, which makes aerostructures for airframers such as Airbus. In the third quarter of this year, the group plans to start a new subsidiary called Turbine Services & Solutions Aerospace to encompass ADAT’s engine maintenance activities. Last November at the Dubai Air Show, Rolls-Royce signed an agreement for Mubadala to become established as an approved Trent XWB engine MRO provider in the Middle East region, which comprises 25 percent of all orders.

“We also committed to helping establish the first advanced manufacturing research center in the region to support Mubadala’s goal to become a Tier 1 aerospace industry supplier, and plan to source engine components valued at up to $500 million over a 10-year period from Mubadala once it has a manufacturing capability,” a Rolls-Royce spokesman told AIN.

A similar agreement is in place with GE Aviation for the GEnx engine.

Separately, Etihad on May 18 announced plans to establish its own flight training center. The foundation for this will be to acquire the existing Horizon International Flight Training Academy from Mubadala to create the Etihad Flight College in Al Ain. Etihad will provide capital to invest in 13 Cessna 172SP Skyhawks, as well as the Diamond DA42NGs and a pair of flight simulators. Horizon currently has 210 trainees enrolled and has been training Etihad flight crew for the past seven years.