India’s initiative to connect Tier 2 and 3 airports under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) appears likely to provide a boost to the fledgling maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) industry in India. The RCS, which offers incentives to airlines flying to underserved and remote destinations, has expanded with flights connecting 49 airports and 31 helipads in its first two phases. The RCS has opened 325 routes to 15 airlines and helicopter operators to include 23 new airports and 31 helipads.
According to the MRO Association of India, 75 percent of domestic carriers’ MRO work happens abroad. Now, with the RCS opening international routes to neighboring countries, further opportunities will open for international carriers for MRO as well, said Ministry of Civil Aviation economic advisor Vandana Aggarwal at the AeroMRO summit held in Delhi on December 5 and 6.
As growing domestic traffic congests larger Indian airports, up-and-coming airports will provide a haven for MRO facilities once the RCS results in more traffic, Vishok Mansingh, director of Mumbai-based consultancy CAV Aero, told AIN. “Meanwhile, line maintenance services also will be enhanced as private third-party providers set up shop at the smaller airports,” he said. “This will save airlines cost as trained personnel sign off flights.” Presently, an engineer accompanies an aircraft or has to travel by road to smaller airports for line maintenance, particularly for ATRs and smaller aircraft. That squanders time and a paying seat on the aircraft, he added. Mansingh said as aircraft movements to smaller airports increase, he could visualize heavier maintenance and component facilities opening thanks to better availability and more compelling economics than at metropolitan airports.
The likes of regional carrier SpiceJet, which flies Bombardier Q400s under the RCS, face cost challenges at larger airports, said Arun Kashyap, executive vice president of engineering at SpiceJet Technic. “Base maintenance costs for the Q400 are higher than for narrowbody aircraft,” he said. “We have to develop maintenance hubs in remote cities.”
The rise of midsize maintenance stations at smaller airports will improve reliability and connectivity, reduce turnaround times for aircraft, and improve passenger experience, said Abhijit Choudhry, assistant general manager at interiors refurbishment provider Epsilon Aerospace.
Still, a series of challenges remains at underserved airports in India, including a need for engineers, training, and line maintenance, along with a lack of night landings. Efforts toward producing more trained personnel have begun. Last year, Pratt & Whitney announced the DGCA certification of a training center in Hyderabad to provide CAR147-approved training to aircraft engineers and technicians.