Etihad opens the doors to its expanding facility

The scale of expansion in the Middle East was illustrated by Etihad Airways as it opened its doors to Talking Point yesterday (April 29).

Following last year’s acquisition of the heavy airframe maintenance services of provider Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies (ADAT) from Mubadala, Etihad has continued to ramp up its maintenance operation to support its growing fleet and offer services to third parties.

And things are set to only get bigger, with Etihad intent on doubling the facility’s size by this time next year, including opening a second paint shop.

Located at the carrier’s headquarters near Abu Dhabi International Airport, the tour of Etihad Airways Engineering was condensed into a just a few hours, with our guide insisting that a full tour of its vast operation would take days.

The tour began in the component shop, where Etihad demonstrated some of its wheel and safety testing capabilities. Etihad tests between 20 and 30 aircraft wheels per day, a number it is also planning to double over the course of this year.

The inflating of 777 and A320 evacuation slides was also demonstrated in all its eardrum-bursting glory, something Etihad teams carry out in just six seconds before recording how long the slides take to deflate.

Offering a real sense of the facility’s scale is the vast hangar 6, also home to Etihad’s cabin interior shop. On the day of my visit, the hangar housed two of the airline’s new A380 aircraft.

As we took around the behemoths, our guide from Etihad confirmed that the A380 comes with a lot of maintenance challenges given its status as a highly connected aircraft.

With 10 more of the aircraft on firm order it’s no wonder that the carrier is investing on further expansion of its MRO facilities which Mick Adams, Etihad Engineering’s vice-president of MRO services, told us that would take another year to complete.

Etihad has already made impressive strides in transforming the centre into a world class maintenance facility, but the carrier is by no means finished. Alongside expanding its capabilities to cope with its growing fleet, the carrier must surely have its eye on the increasing demand for MRO services in the region.

CAVOK, for example, predicts that the MRO sector in the Middle East is set to be worth $9.8bn by 2025 – close to double the estimated $5.1bn it will be worth this year.

Looking at those figures Etihad’s investment seems a very canny one.

Watch out for James' travel blog giving an in-depth look at Airlines E&M: Middle East event next week.

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