Regional Carriers Mixing Up MRO Models

By Carole Shifrin
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

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.

With three large commercial aircraft service centers in the U.S.—a total of 25 lines of maintenance in Macon, Ga., Bridgeport, W.Va., and Tucson—Bombardier is finding receptive airlines, officials say.

Republic also signed a component support agreement with Embraer for its 145/170/175/190s, including those it will operate for American Airlines. Republic had done a lot of Embraer work internally.

Alaska Airlines' Horizon Air is another carrier that moved MRO work outside. In 2010, Horizon began outsourcing heavy maintenance of its Q400 fleet—now 48 aircraft—to Empire Aerospace in Hayden, Idaho. The move shaved Horizon's maintenance base staff by 100, although some moved to jobs at line bases.