Air India's (AI) aircraft maintenance base, a joint venture of the AI and the U.S.-based aircraft manufacturer Boeing, that has come up near the new international terminal building of Thiruvananthapuram airport is all set for commissioning.
A trial run, carried out last week using an Air India Express (AIE) aircraft from the hangar to the tarmac, through a parallel taxiway, was successful. Inventory needed for the functioning of the base is being prepared, according to AI sources.
The formal commissioning of the base will be done either during the third or fourth week of September by Union Minister for Civil Aviation Vayalar Ravi. Although the facility would be declared open at the function, it would be operational only after some time, the sources said.
The base will function as a unit of the aircraft maintenance-cum-training facility coming up at Nagpur in Maharashtra. It will take care of the day-to-day maintenance of Boeing 737-800 aircraft used by AIE, the budget airline of AI. The base here can take up maintenance of two aircraft at a time.
AIE, which has 21 aircraft, will benefit immensely from the base. Of the 21 aircraft, the airline operates 18 at a time and three are in the hangar. With the new facility, AIE will try to put 19 aircraft in the ‘line' and increase the average flying time to 12 hours (Its average flying time every 24 hours has gone up from nine hours to 10.25 hours). This will help the airline to serve flyers better and increase revenue generation.
The base, constructed at a cost of over Rs.70 crore, has come up in 6.07 hectares provided free by the State to AI. Construction of the 500-metre parallel taxiway, to bring the aircraft that land on the runway to the base, was done by the Airports Authority of India at a cost of Rs.9 crore. The base will have several unique features, including use of solar energy.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had laid the foundation stone for the project along with that for the new terminal complex of the airport. The work was delayed because demolition of buildings and machinery of the Trivandrum Rubber Works and of the quarters set up by the construction firm entrusted with the city road improvement project took time.
The airline hopes that more airlines would arrive here once the base is commissioned. The maintenance of other Boeing aircraft will be done at the base in the later stages.
A major shift
The base has been set up by Air-India Engineering Services, a fully owned subsidiary of AI. The plan is to develop the base for ‘Maintenance Repair Overhaul' facility.
Chief of Engineering, AIE, now based in Mumbai will shift to Thiruvananthapuram once the base is commissioned. He would have a team of highly experienced engineers under him, sources added.