In the past decade, Ethiopian Airlines has been among Africa’s most ambitious airline groups, furnishing its fleet with new aircraft including the Boeing 787, Airbus A350 and a forthcoming influx of 737 MAX 8s.
The airline has also extended this ambition to its maintenance operation, emerging as one of the biggest maintenance providers on the continent.
Ethiopian’s intentions seem set on further growing its market share. From today (Apr. 12), the airline will inaugurate three new widebody MRO hangars at its main base in Addis Ababa, following investment to the tune of $115 million.
Capacity will enable space in all three hangars for one Boeing 747-800, its largest aircraft. The third hangar has a configuration of one 777-200 or three 737s at any one time. According to Ethiopian, the new facilities also have full paint capabilities, while also targeting greater avionics, mechanical, hydraulic and pneumatic component maintenance offerings.
Capability upgrades in the works include coverage for the GEnx engine option, the Pratt & Whitney PW150 turboprop and the Honeywell GTCP 131-9B APU system. Plans also extend to a potential new maintenance joint venture with an unnamed OEM, an airline spokesperson told MRO Network Daily.
Driving the hangar modernization is a need to accommodate the growth of the Ethiopian fleet, which currently stands at a combination of 85 passenger and cargo jets, with nearly 50 aircraft also on order.
Ramping up readiness for third-party work was also a factor, the spokesperson said. To date, Ethiopian’s third-party customer base is primarily made up of fellow African carriers, including maintenance packages for the likes of Malawian, RwandAir, Congo Airways and Kenyan low-cost carrier Jambojet Airlines. It has also grown its coverage for airlines in the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and China, with more carriers from those regions flying routes into Africa.
Ethiopian Group CEO, Tewolde GebreMariam, said the move is designed “to further complement our steady growth and attain our goal in remaining to be the leading MRO service provider in Africa”. Considering Airbus’ prediction that more than 1,000 jets will be delivered into the continent in the next 20 years, work opportunities will be available.
Despite Africa’s aftermarket status still being in the fledgling stage, with a compound annual growth of 4.0% predicted from 2017 to 2026 by Aviation Week's 2017 Fleet & MRO Forecast, competition on the continent is expected to grow. Along with Ethiopian contending with fellow African providers including Egyptair Maintenance & Engineering and South Africa’s SAA Technical, more western MROs are also establishing a presence in Africa.