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Trade winds

With Hurricane Maria almost in the past, Lufthansa Technik Puerto Rico is pushing forward with an increase in business. Ian Harbison reports

Having recovered from the effects of the storm in September 2017, thanks to the huge efforts of the staff and the assistance of the Lufthansa Group (see MRO Management, March 2018), the Lufthansa Technik Puerto Rico (LTPR) facility is now up and running and has gained additional customers. There are still a few problems, says CEO Pat Foley, with occasional power cuts as the island’s infrastructure continues to be repaired but backup generators are now readily available.

The company has come a long way in a short time. The construction contract was signed in February 2014, with ground breaking following in November of the same year. Just 9 months later, 21 July 2015, the first aircraft, an Airbus A320 from Spirit Airlines, arrived for maintenance at the 20,000m² facility, located at the Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla at the western end of Puerto Rico. Constructed by US company Haskell, the design closely follows that of Lufthansa Technik Sofia, including a combined maintenance/paint bay and there has been close contact between the two facilities ever since.

Indeed that close connection also exists with the other European facilities in the Lufthansa Technik base maintenance network. Foley took over as CEO in June 2017, transferred from Lufthansa Technik Shannon to become Head of Production, working with the first CEO, Elmar Lutter, who transferred from Lufthansa Technik Budapest to set up Aguadilla.

JetBlue and Spirit, who were the original customers when the facility opened in 2015, continue to send aircraft on a regular basis but have been joined by another US low cost carrier, Allegiant Air (for exterior and cabin interior work on an Airbus A320), as well as Avianca Brazil and LATAM, meaning all five overhaul lines are occupied until June.

The South American customers have required the facility to gain additional authority approvals from Brazil and Chile, in addition to the existing approvals from the FAA, EASA and the Canadian authorities. Approval by a further four national authorities in Latin America is currently being pursued.

He says the current success in the market confirms that Puerto Rico was the right location for the facility; situated centrally between North and South America, customers can easily position their aircraft for maintenance. This was further reinforced by the LTPR’s first lease transition check for Apollo Aviation, which involved the transition of an aircraft from Europe to Brazilian airline Azul. This release also happened to be the first EASA release by the company.

The Avianca Brazil work included the installation of a wifi IFE system and LTPR could call on the expertise of Lufthansa Technik in Europe for assistance. This is another important asset for the company, “while we are a young company in Puerto Rico we are supported by one of the most experienced base maintenance networks in the world, with 30 years working on the A320 type alone, having access to that experience gives us a distinct competitive advantage”.

Other key elements in the decision to locate in Aguadilla were a commitment by local authorities to develop the airport and local aerospace industry, an educated committed English-speaking population and good educational facilities. In particular, there is the Aeronautical & Aerospace Institute of Puerto Rico (AAIPR), which is affiliated with the University of Puerto Rico, Aguadilla. It is also based at Rafael Hernández Airport, just 1 mile from the Lufthansa Technik facility.

The institute originally developed a six-month Base Aircraft Overhaul Program. This intensive program based on the EASA Category A covers at least 1,015 contact hours. It prepares participants in three basic areas; the theoretical area covers basic knowledge in Mathematics, Physics, Aerodynamics, Electronics and Materials Science; the practical area covers practical skills using the Structures laboratory and inspection techniques; the specific aircraft knowledge area covers detailed operational knowledge of specific aircraft and equipment. >>


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