Regional Carriers Mixing Up MRO Models

By Carole Shifrin
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology
May 06, 2013
Credit: Empire Aerospace

Regional airlines are undergoing a period of change in everything from ownership and partner relationships to route systems and aircraft fleets, and this is helping trigger a shake-up of maintenance models.

The transformation in the regional industry has been substantial, starting with the mergers and acquisitions that are shifting the landscape for both regional and major airlines. The regional carriers also are securing new service contracts with majors that will bring new aircraft types into their fleets. And the continuing quest for efficiency means regional airline officials are reviewing maintenance needs and costs.

But to maintain aircraft internally involves large capital expenditure, both for physical facilities and parts inventory. It also requires training and maintaining the required workforce. On the other hand, to contract out maintenance a carrier must find the right MRO facilities to meet its needs.

SkyWest Airlines is always weighing those issues, says H. Michael Gibson, vice president of maintenance.

The carrier has substantial in-house capabilities but also outsources some significant work.

The St. George, Utah-based SkyWest operates a fleet of 323 aircraft—281 Bombardier CRJ200, 700 and 900 regional jets and 42 Embraer EMB-120 Brasilias—on behalf of Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and US Airways.

Gibson says the airline sends its CRJs out for C checks to Bombardier's Commercial Aircraft Service Center in Tucson, Ariz., and its major engine overhauls to StandardAero and General Electric. SkyWest does hot sections on its Embraer aircraft engines in-house.

The carrier conducts some component work inside, completes certain avionics repairs at its Palm Springs and Fresno, Calif., bases , performs its own interior work on its aircraft, and works on wheels and tires in its accessory shop.