Regional Carriers Mixing Up MRO Models

By Carole Shifrin
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

All three carriers were sending out maintenance work on engines, landing gear, auxiliary power units and components to MROs, officials say, and will continue to do so in the near term.

Each of the three carriers, of course, had its own European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)-approved Maintenance Part M program, and those have been retained. But joint project teams are working on establishing ways to enhance the overall organization's performance and reduce costs through synergies within the Part M program.

Although it is difficult to read the tea leaves regarding the future of American Eagle, American Airlines' regional airline affiliate, Eagle currently “does its own aircraft maintenance and always has,” an Eagle source says.

The carrier has heavy maintenance bases in Abilene, Texas, and Marquette, Mich., with extensive facilities. Both handle Eagle's current fleet of 213 Embraer regional jets and 59 CRJs. Eagle's nine ATRs are being phased out.

Eagle Aviation Services Inc. (EASI) in Abilene is a combined hangar/stores/office complex. In its four hangars, EASI operates five nose-to-tail dock lines which completed more than 76 heavy checks last year, an official says. It also handles overnight aircraft and drop-in work, and modification programs.

American Eagle's Marquette facility has three hangars, accommodating three nose-to-tail lines for heavy maintenance. The facility performed 65 heavy checks on Eagle's ERJ 135/145 and Bombardier CRJ700 aircraft last year, in addition to overnight and drop-in work, Eagle says. American also has 10 line stations across the U.S., and “four additional contract line bases” that only work on Embraer aircraft. Most major engine work is done by Rolls-Royce and General Electric.

In the past, American had the most restrictive of scope clauses with its pilots' union, dictating the size of aircraft American Eagle and regional partners could operate. This is why there are so many regional jets with 50 seats or less—225—in AMR Corp.'s regional fleet. With the carrier in bankruptcy protection, its pilots' union has agreed to a new pact allowing American to outsource the operation of aircraft with 76 seats or less to Eagle and other regionals. The change has potential implications for American Eagle's MRO services as well.

Some carriers with considerable in-house MRO capabilities have been changing course in the last few years.

Republic Airways has stepped-up its outsourcing. The carrier signed a long-term maintenance agreement last year with Bombardier Commercial Aircraft Services for support of Q400s. The nine-year contract covers all heavy maintenance for 32 Q400s it began operating on behalf of United Express.

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