Air India shows interest in overhauling defence planes

Expanding wings: AIESL had applied for a bid to service the Indian Air Force’s IL-78 mid-air refueller aircraft. Photo Credit: PTI

Expanding wings: AIESL had applied for a bid to service the Indian Air Force’s IL-78 mid-air refueller aircraft. Photo Credit: PTI  

MRO unit’s CEO suggests measure under Make in India initiative to save ‘a lot of foreign exchange’

The Civil Aviation Ministry has written to the Defence Ministry asking them to facilitate the servicing of defence aircraft at Air India’s Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities.

“Suitable measures may kindly be initiated to negotiate with OEMs [original equipment manufacturer] of defence aircraft to give training and maintenance manuals so that we can maintain the defence aircraft at much cheaper cost and better turnaround time, as compared to giving the maintenance to OEMs abroad,” Civil Aviation Secretary R.N. Choubey wrote to Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra recently.

Air India’s MRO unit — Air India Engineering Services Limited (AIESL) — currently carries out MRO activities for commercial aircraft of various Boeing and Airbus fleet type at its facilities based in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Thiruvananthapuram , Nagpur and Kolkata.

In a bid to expand its business to defence aircraft, AIESL had even applied for a bid to service Indian Air Force’s IL-78 mid-air refueller aircraft and four Embraer-135 aircraft used to transport VIPs earlier this year. However, the bids were rejected as AIESL does not have the mandatory authorisation certification required to be obtained for servicing these planes from the Russian-based OEMs.

“There is a clause of OEM certification. OEM is not willing to transfer the knowledge or skill nor is allowing AIESL to certify,” AIESL chief executive officer H.R. Jagannath had said in a meeting on January 25, adding that the IL-78 aircraft was being sent to Russia for maintenance at present.

“Under the Make in India scheme, these aircraft should be maintained in India and by doing so, India can save a lot of foreign exchange,” the AIESL CEO added.

Maintenance manual

The Aviation Secretary wrote in his letter to the Defence Secretary that getting the maintenance manual details from OEMs was essential for maintaining any aircraft. “AIESL is capable of maintaining narrow-body as well as wide-body aircraft of any manufacturer. Defence establishments can make use of our facilities, including hangars, which are spread all over the country,” he said.

The Aviation Ministry will also request the External Affairs Ministry to take up the matter with Russia.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in its report in July this year, had pointed out to “several deficiencies in infrastructure facilities and maintenance and repair of the existing IL fleet.”

The audit said that India had only one hangar for 14 IL-76 aircraft and one for six IL-78 planes, which are due for overhaul in 2018-19.

“Due to non-availability of hangars, the costly air assets remained in the open which adversely affected their serviceability and life,” the CAG report had said.

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 3:11:19 AM |

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