Confusion and uncertainty have been the best description of last several years for the Indian commercial aviation sector. But it seems that the market is showing certain signs of an upcoming turnaround. Moreover, as the Indian government has allowed international aircraft companies to establish ventures in the MRO segment, the upcoming country’s largest MRO facility is expected to become operational soon. However, as new liberalizing winds appear to be favourable for the aviation industry in the region, the country must still address unresolved pressing issues, including the training of technical personnel.
Last November Indian domestic traffic’s year-to-year growth reached only 3.4% (compared to an 8.6% rise in October). These figures indicate that the Indian air travel market remains volatile. However there are signs of improvement. First, Air India is finally in queue to be accepted into Star Alliance. Moreover, India’s MRO industry was boosted last year as well, when the government announced tax concessions on imports of spare parts and testing equipment for aircraft repair works. As a result, currently estimated to be worth approximately $800 million, the Indian MRO industry is expected to double in size by 2020, thus proving to have one of the largest potentials in the region. Nevertheless, there are still quite a few limitations that are preventing the Indian aviation industry from securing such a leading position.
“As the Indian aviation market is evolving, a robust MRO is of immense importance to support the country’s aviation industry’s potential. Meantime, growth of the maintenance sector has been restrained by the lack of proper infrastructure as well as unfavourable tax policies for some time now. Although recently India’s aviation ministry has been encouraging small and medium airports to set up MRO facilities, the lack of hangar space at Indian airports has been a major constraint in setting up such facilities,” says Kestutis Volungevicius, the Head of FL Technics Training. “As a result, most of the airlines - with Air India being, probably, the only exception - send their aircraft to foreign maintenance providers, mostly in the Middle East or Singapore.”
In such environment, the decision made by the Indian aviation authorities to allow international aircraftcompanies to establish ventures in the MRO segment might indeed prove to be timely. It may provide the necessary environment for supporting the carriers, which deal with increasing passenger traffic and fleet expansion. For example, later this year the much-delayed maintenance, repair and overhaul facility at Nagpur, India, where Boeing has agreed to set up and airframe MRO shop will finally open its doors to the first clients. According to the manufacturer, the $100 million project will provide the country with one of the most modern MRO facilities in the sub-continent, which will offer services to 300 Boeing aircraft a year, as well as provide support for General Electric GE90 and GEnx engines. However, according to the experts, the latest facilities won’t solve all Indian MRO market issues.
“While the potential to establish proper maintenance facilities is certainly good news, developing the infrastructure is not the only major goal. Enhanced capabilities for supporting the growth of the industry and bringing some of the offshored maintenance work back home must be backed up by appropriate amount of qualified workforce. But training technical staff always takes time,” comments the Head of FL Technics Training. “Nevertheless, after a series of practical decisions by the government, it can be safely stated that India is moving in the right direction. After all, the establishment of joint MRO ventures was one of the turning points for some other Asia-Pacific countries, while bringing the quality of MRO services to international standards. Therefore, it may well be that for India a better tomorrow is just around the corner.”