Alaska Eyes MRO Expansion In Anchorage

Last Friday’s (July 29) news that Alaska Airlines is set to finance a new MRO hangar in Anchorage to the tune of $40m is the latest investment from a carrier with aggressive growth plans for North America.

Located at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and expected to be operational by Q2 2018, the facility will allow Alaska to service the raft of new aircraft expected to enter its fleet over the next five years, comprised of more than 50 next-generation 737s.

Expansion has been on the airline’s agenda throughout 2016, with parent company Alaska Air Group’s $2.6bn acquisition of fellow US carrier Virgin America looking likely to be closed by October following shareholder approval last month.

Considering the possibility of having an entire fleet of Virgin’s aircraft under its control, the new facility will be suitably sizeable once complete. Alaska confirmed it will have twice the capacity of its existing hangar at Alaska’s main airport, measuring at just under 10,000m2 and able to accommodate two of its largest aircraft type - the 737-Max 9.

“Our existing facility has served us well for many years, but as we grow and add larger planes to our fleet, it’s time we upgraded our northernmost maintenance facility,” Alaska Airlines’ vice-president of maintenance and engineering Kurt Kinder told the media.

The announcement also provides a timely boost for Alaska’s struggling oil-dominated economy, which has been hit by the global downturn in fuel prices during the past two years.   

Despite being headquartered out of state in Seattle – where it also has a maintenance hangar - the airline has invested heavily in the state of Alaska in recent years, spending more than $100m on upgrading terminals and buying three 737-700 freighters to grow its cargo operations across the region.

With a project of this magnitude, local firms would also surely hope to benefit, with Alaska's economic capital Anchorage seeing employment fall by 2,500 jobs year-on-year in June 2016.

Having been one of many US carriers buoyed by an upturn in profits in recent years, Alaska Airlines’ expansion is good news for aircraft engineering and technical roles in the state.

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