Châteauroux Airport Vies for More Maintenance Business

 - June 11, 2015, 12:30 PM
Specialist ATE has four paint shops at Châteauroux Airport, each capable of accommodating up to a widebody airliner. (Photo: Thierry Dubois)

Châteauroux Marcel Dassault Airport (Hall 4, G106), in central France, is striving to expand maintenance, repair and overhaul activities, in addition to boosting cargo flights and training. The construction of a new 100,000-sq-ft maintenance hangar was to begin this spring, which involves replacing the existing air traffic control tower. The goal is to create a one-stop shop for aircraft maintenance and modification– “Châteauroux Air Center.” As for freight operations, Châteauroux airport executives hope to eventually double the current throughput of 4,500 metric tons per year.

Dismantling and recycling aircraft and parts, once touted as a major activity there, are still offered, but airport managing director Mark Bottemine no longer wants to emphasize it. “This used to be fashionable, but now we don’t like the image of a graveyard,” he said. Bottemine would rather focus on expanding the cabin modification business. A total of 98 acres is available south of the runway.

Châteauroux already has a strong player in aircraft painting. Specialist ATE (part of Air Works group) operates four paint shops that can accommodate aircraft ranging in size from a light business jet to a widebody airliner. ATE has capacity to paint 100 aircraft per year–either from “green” condition or repainting jobs, including stripping and prep.

This year, ATE is planning on painting 90 aircraft in Châteauroux. The average lead time is 12 days for an entire new livery. This depends less on the size of the aircraft and more on the complexity of the paint scheme, ATE CEO Christian Lalane explained.

For pilot training, Châteauroux airport offers a friendly operating environment. The runway is more than 11,000 feet long, with no significant obstacles or terrain in the vicinity, and there is little traffic. A number of airlines use the runway, and Airbus has found it suitable for some flight-test operations, Bottemine said.

A training center for airport firemen, C2FPA, can be found on site, too. It is equipped with two full-size mockups–one Airbus A320 and one Boeing 747–to simulate airframe and engine fires, for example. The technical content of the courses is constantly updated based on close contact with manufacturers. “We’d better know the diameter of the engine’s compressor if we don’t want to waste water by only hosing the fan,” C2FPA CEO Jean-Michel Azémar said. The training programs are also ecologically friendly, he said. “We use rain water only.”

Also, C2FPA maintains complete training records of firefighting personnel, an important consideration. Sometimes accident investigators ask for documents that substantiate the proficiency of firemen at an airport where a crash took place, Azémar added. C2FPA, which trains some 1,200 firemen every year, also offers training to cope with wildlife hazards on airports. In April, it was awarded “full member” status in ICAO’s Trainair Plus program–a cooperative network of training organizations and industry partners.

Yanking and Banking

The FAI World Aerobatics Championships 2015 will take place at Châteauroux from August 20 to 29 this year. It will see the world’s best 60 aerobatic pilots competing. FFA, the association for light aviation in France, is the organizer and intends to attract a large audience.