New hangar capacity and shifting fleet dynamics at Icelandair could lead to the airline becoming a specialist in Boeing 757 maintenance even after it phases out the venerable narrowbody, the carrier's top executive says.
Speaking at the Aviation Suppliers Association annual conference in Reston, Va. July 10, Icelandair CEO Birkir Holm Gudnason said that the carrier’s expertise in the 757 could be leveraged as part of its long-term third-party MRO services strategy even after it retires the fleet type.
“We could become like Fokker Services for the 757 in the future, even though we might not be operating it,” he says. "That’s one of the options we are looking at in the future.”
The 757 remains the backbone of Icelandair’s 30-aircraft fleet and will be for the foreseeable future. The carrier operates 26 of the Boeing narrowbodies, including one 757-300. It also flies four 767-300s. But a major fleet expansion gets underway next year, when the first of 16 firm-order 737 Maxs arrive. The carrier, which operated 11 aircraft a decade ago, also hold eight options for Boeing’s newest narrowbody. The new aircraft will be used for a combination of growth and fleet-replacement.
Icelandair’s growth led it to add a second maintenance hangar at its Keflavik International Airport base. Slated to open late this year, the hangar will help Icelandair pull back some heavy maintenance that has been going to third-party providers due to capacity constraints. The carrier’s plan is to use the new hangar for major checks and large projects, such as cabin modifications. The current hangar, built in 1992, will be used for lighter work and unscheduled checks.
The new capacity, coupled with a local effort to ensure Icelandair will have a steady flow of technical services employees, will support the carrier’s goal of doing “most” of its MRO work in-house, Gudnason said.
As the fleet is modernized and its internal MRO demand decline thanks to new-aircraft maintenance honeymoons and a general reduction in MRO needs that newer models tend to bring, the airline will seek ways to keep its hangars full and employees busy. Focusing on the 757--much like Fokker Services built an aftermarket business that started by supporting the legacy Fokker turborprop and jet fleets--could be part of the strategy.
“We have a lot of expertise in Iceland on the 757,” Gudnason says.