Copa Airlines plans to inaugurate its new three-bay hangar in Panama City on July 10, which will enable it to insource 90% of its airframe maintenance, says Ahmad Zamany, VP technical operations for the airline. The hangar, which was finished in January, is part of the airline’s Centro Mantenimiento de Copa Tech Ops (CMC) that also includes a training center and new stores area. Copa invested $15 million in the facility’s construction, which took slightly less than two years to complete at Tocumen International Airport in Panama.
The 5,900 m2 hangar simultaneously fits three Boeing 737s for heavy maintenance, but it is only being used for “two continuous nose-to-tail C check lines for the time being” with the third held for future growth, he says.
Copa decided to start insourcing some airframe maintenance work in 2011. Its staff completed two C checks that year, as it ramped up training, tooling and spares, and “outsourced 20 C checks to Coopesa and others."
Within three years, the Panamanian carrier started performing more inhouse checks than what it outsourced. By 2018, it outsourced 13 and performed 18 C checks inhouse.
This year, the numbers shift dramatically—to only two outsourced and 29 C checks performed inhouse.
To support the additional airframe work, Copa plans to enhance its structures, composites, machine and quick engine change shops. Construction for these shops will commence in the fourth quarter of this year, says Zamany.
This will be followed by a subsequent building phase that will include a cafeteria and employee area “that is in the conceptual design phase and will start construction the first quarter of next year,” says Zamany.
The new hangar and stores area is equipped with LED and natural lighting, which should reduce the facility’s electrical consumption by 30% compared to the old hangar, he says. To further reduce its energy consumption, Copa is in the design phase of solar panel installation.
Copa added the CMC to its growth plans in 2013, but it took time to secure land adjacent to its existing facility.
“We have been a fan of insourcing where it makes sense and highly interested in development of aviation in the country,” says Zamany.
Copa intends to use this new facility for its fleet requirements and is not seeking third-party work. However, if slots becomes available, it could consider offering service to others.