Regional Carriers Mixing Up MRO Models

By Carole Shifrin
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

When deciding between in-house and outside assignments, Gibson considers three criteria—reliability, cost and efficiency.

“Sometimes we can do it in-house and turn it much quicker than they can outside,” Gibson says. The turn-time is essential because it affects the requirement for spares.

The same three criteria will determine the maintenance plan when SkyWest brings the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) into its fleet, Gibson says. The airline has ordered 100 MRJ90s, with first deliveries set for 2017.

SkyWest has eight maintenance bases and eight line stations with more than 1,300 employees, including 758 A&P mechanics and inspectors.

Because of the widespread nature of SkyWest's network, having maintenance bases nationwide is important “to get the required touch times with the airplanes,” Gibson says. Nashville was added to its list of bases last year because some of the aircraft it operates on behalf of Delta were repositioned and it needed more touch times in that part of the country.

The line bases are in locations where there is a heavy flow of aircraft.

Although both SkyWest and its sister airline ExpressJet operate large numbers of CRJs, and to some of the same airports, Gibson says they are generally separate operations. For example, while both fly to Houston, ExpressJet offers ERJ 145s there while SkyWest uses CRJs.

Canadian regional airline Jazz Aviation performs its own heavy maintenance at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and London, Ontario, and at its component MRO facility in Calgary, Alberta, according to Richard Steer, vice president for maintenance and engineering.

The carrier, however, is transitioning all heavy maintenance activities to the Halifax base, where it will have increased its two lines of heavy maintenance to three by July.

Jazz has been taking new Bombardier Q400s into its fleet over the past two years to replace 50-seat CRJs, and it currently operates 21 Q400s with options for nine more. Overall, Jazz runs a mixed fleet of 131 Bombardier jet and turboprop aircraft in two airline divisions: 126 aircraft operating flights as Air Canada Express and five aircraft operating charters throughout North America under the Jazz banner.