Export credit may push airlines towards US MRO

Heavy maintenance outsourcing has been a key MRO trend in the past 15 years, especially in the United States, where several network carriers farmed out C and D checks to MRO shops in Asia in the early 2000s.

The next decade, however, could see plenty of maintenance return to the United States, and not just from domestic carriers.

The standard reasons given for this include: high fuel prices and the associated cost of ferrying aircraft across the Pacific; labour rate convergence between Asian and US MRO shops; and excess hangar capacity in the US.

Although some of the work previously done in Asia will transfer to Central and South American facilities such as Aeroman in El Salvador, there is another force backing US providers: export credit.

The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im) is best known for financing aircraft deliveries from Boeing, but in February it guaranteed a $40m bond for Brazilian carrier Gol to finance engine maintenance performed by Delta Techops.

Ex-Im justified the financing by saying that it would support 400 jobs at Delta Techops’ Atlanta facility, where Gol will receive up to 253 scheduled and unscheduled CFM56-7B removals and overhauls.

"The availability of Ex-Im Bank's financing was the key to our choosing this US provider for these services,” stated Gol’s CEO, Paulo Kakinoff.

Altogether, Ex-Im has now guaranteed more than $120m of bonds for Gol, and the recent deal was actually the third export credit line it had extended to the Brazilian carrier specifically for Delta maintenance.

So far Delta Techops is the only US MRO provider to have been directly targeted by Ex-Im, but others will surely now turn to the bank as an additional source of competitive advantage in a globalised maintenance market where other differentials are being eroded.

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