Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)
New tech of inflatable hangars poised to take off in Indian aircraft maintenance industry
In February, just before the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, India’s infrastructure major GMR Group announced setting up of Asia’s first inflatable hangar at its Hyderabad airport, bringing a new dimension to aircraft and engine maintenance and repair in the country.
The introduction of this costeffective technology, which is in use by some aviation companies in Europe and Middle East Gulf, assumes importance given that India is set to expand both its aircraft fleet and aviation infrastructure with hundreds of airports over the next few years. Some of which will require aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) as well.
The government has, over the past four years, made various announcements to construct or revive around 150 airports, including some airstrips in the country. Also, amid the government’s efforts to make the country an MRO hub, new ventures have also been reportedly announced by multiple players including Boeing, Airbus, Hindustan Aeronautics and Pratt & Whitney for setting up repair facilities in India. explains Ashok Gopinath, chief executive officer (CEO) GMR Aero Technic that brought the inflatable hangar technology to the country. “It is a cost-effective option which can shorten the time of construction. As a part of airport infrastructure, it can be used to provide line, ad-hoc and base maintenance checks on the aircraft,” he said.
The inflatable hangar is designed to withstand wind speeds up to 158.4 kilometres per hour (kmph) and can handle temperatures from -30 degrees Celsius to +70 degrees Celsius, thereby creating an alternative for conventional solid metal hangars that are both expensive and time consuming to build.
A conventional single-aisle aircraft hangar requires an investment of around ₹50 crore and takes over 18 months to construct. An inflatable hangar, on the other hand, can be installed in about three to four months at less than one-fourth the cost, around ₹12 crore, which includes lighting, fire-fighting, ventilation, doors etc.
At present, the country has 19 conventional hangars belonging to national carrier Air India’s subsidiary Air India Engineering Services Ltd (AIESL), GMR Aero Technic and Air Works India spread across different states.
Around 3,344sqmt area is required to accommodate one narrow-body aircraft in a hangar around 7,000sqmt for a widebody aircraft.
As per industry experts, of the total MRO cost of an air operator fleet, engine maintenance cost accounts for 45%, component maintenance 25%, airframe and other costs account for 35%.
According to Boeing’s latest market outlook, India will need over 2,200 new jets valued at around $320 billion over the next 20 years.
“There is a tremendous scope for such hangars as many new airports will come up in India. It is an ideal solution for operators and MROS for the regional connectivity scheme,” says Pulak Sen, founder and secretary general, MRO Association of India.
“These hangars may be deployed at off-line or remote stations for smaller checks and quick turn-around of aircraft. They can also be in addition to normal hangars to take care of additional work loads, which an MRO may get,” said HR Jagannath, former CEO of AIESL.
European aviation major Airbus said, “With ongoing major growth of aviation in India, it is critical that airlines have access to world-class maintenance facilities within the borders.”
It is a cost-effective option which can shorten the time of construction