Government-owned AI Engineering Services Ltd (AIESL) is in discussions with foreign carriers to carry out maintenance checks on their aircraft at its facilities. AIESL was carved out as a subsidiary of Air India a decade ago to provide engineering services to the national carrier. Even now, over 50 per cent of its business comes from servicing Air India’s aircraft, and the remaining from defence aircraft, and other domestic and foreign airlines.

With Air India developing its own in house aircraft maintenance capabilities, AIESL has stepped up efforts to attract new long-term business.

“We are in dialogue with foreign carriers and should be able to conclude some contracts in a couple of months,” said AIESL chief executive officer Sharad Agarwal. AIESL is also enhancing its capabilities. Recently, it secured approvals to carry out checks on Boeing 737 Max aircraft at its facilities in Thiruvanathaputaram and Kolkata. Fresh hiring is being done, and over 500 technicians have been recruited in the past six to eight months, he added.

Last year, AIESL carried out heavy maintenance checks on 10 Kuwait Airways Boeing 777 at its Mumbai and Nagpur maintenance repair overhaul units. These were the first heavy checks done for a foreign airline since formation of the company.

“AIESL’s annual revenue for past two years has been around ₹2,000 crore. We expect to end FY24 with a similar turnover,” said Agarwal. On Monday, Air India signed a memorandum of understanding with Bangalore International Airport Ltd for developing MRO facilities. These will include hangars for both narrow body and wide body aircraft for maintenance work, including heavy structural checks. It could take 18-24 months for the airline to construct and operationalise the new facility.

Aircraft order

Last year, Air India announced an order for 470 Airbus and Boeing aircraft. Air India developing its own engineering capabilities is logical, given its massive aircraft order. The existing agreements which require Air India to rely on AIESL for maintenance are set to lapse by year end. AIESL itself may be put on the block next fiscal as a part of disinvestment exercise.

Thus, Air India has already started carrying out routine maintenance on its newly inducted Airbus A350 aircraft after securing regulatory approvals. Maintenance of other aircraft is still being carried out by AIESL

Last October, Air India also announced commissioning of an integrated engineering warehouse at Delhi airport. The warehouse spread over 54,000 square feet can store a million spare parts, and will help in quick resolution of issues and maintaining on time performance, the airline had said.