Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

New tech of inflatable hangars poised to take off in Indian aircraft maintenanc­e industry

- Neha LM Tripathi

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

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