Southwest Airlines’ decision to build a new 240,000 square foot facility at Houston Hobby Airport was driven by greater maintenance capacity requirements for its Boeing 737 fleet.
The Dallas-headquartered airline, which currently operates more than 700 of the aircraft type in addition to an order backlog of more than 200 737 MAX aircraft, announced its plans for the new facility on Jan. 5 to replace its maintenance location in the Texan city.
“Our existing facilities were built to accommodate shorter wing span and fuselage variants of the Boeing 737,” says Scott Colling, Southwest’s director of maintenance operations. “As winglets were installed on our existing fleet, and our company began taking delivery on the 737-800 and 737 MAX 8, much of our existing facilities’ capacities were reduced by half.”
Construction on the Houston operation, which will be one of six Southwest hangars across the U.S., is due to begin in the spring with a scheduled late-2019 opening. The hangar will also include aircraft wash facilities on the apron outside, taxiway connections, parking and loading docks, as well as offices and parts storage areas.
Colling says once the facility is ready, the Houston operation will continue to plan intermediate level and line level maintenance tasks, yet additional capacity will be available to them should they need to grow.
“Although we do not intend to send six aircraft a night into that facility the day it opens, the capacity is there, if we need it in the future,” he adds.
Colling says that some “modest” capabilities are being considered in relation to shop offerings and capacity, primarily in composite repair. He also confirmed that maintenance staff currently at the existing site will move across once construction is complete while not ruling out possible growth in the workforce as Southwest’s presence in Houston grows.