C.J. Punnathara

Kochi, June 1

WITH the proliferation in the number of airlines and multiplication of aircraft fleet in India, the Cochin International Airport Ltd is planning to set up an aircraft maintenance hangar on the airport premises.

The hangar is planned on a 51:49 equity basis, with CIAL holding 51 per cent and the remaining being held by maintenance engineers who will be both stakeholders and employees.

"Aircraft maintenance is a labour intensive activity and there are a large number of NRI maintenance engineers working in various parts of the world, who are looking forward to coming back to India. We plan to tap the financial resources and technical expertise of these people to set up and manage the company," Mr V.J. Kurian, Managing Director of CIAL, said.

Initially, the project is planned for C checks, which are mandatory for an aircraft that has undertaken 4,800 hours of flying time or once in every 18 months, whichever comes earlier. Though the older airlines such as Air India and Indian Airlines have such hangars in Delhi and Mumbai, even these facilities are getting overcrowded.

With the advent of newer airlines such as Kingfisher, Spicejet, Sahara, Deccan Airlines etc, the crowding at the Indian aircraft maintenance hangars have become all the more pronounced. Several of the new airlines and their fleet are now flying to Dubai and Singapore to undertake the mandatory checks.

Checks in India would ensure savings in flying time, fuel and cost to these airlines. The advantage of CIAL is that it was constructed as a new greenfield airport with substantial area for expansion. The airport has over 40 acres to spare, while the hangar would require just a couple of acres of land.

In Kerala's working environment, it is best to initiate the company as a participatory management venture with the employees having a significant stake, in order to ensure proper accountability and ideal work ethics in the enterprise, sources at the airport said.

The first phase of the project would require an investment of Rs 20 crore and would generate close to 1000 jobs. The second phase would require a total investment of Rs 100 crore and is expected to generate 5000 jobs.

As the project gets streamlined and stabilises, it can even attract international aircraft for their maintenance checks to Kochi. The substantial amount of land available with the airport to undertake expansion, experienced manpower and relatively cheaper rates could act as the major incentive for bringing in international airlines, Mr Kurian said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 2, 2005)
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