Florida-based Silver Airways is preparing for an influx of new ATR 42-600 and 72-600 aircraft types from this summer by ramping up its Orlando maintenance operation with new investments.
The airline, which operates flights across Florida and to the Caribbean, will see its existing fleet of 22 Saab 340B aircraft be replaced by the ATRs with the first 42-600 arriving last month and the first 72-600 expected in mid-summer. Eight Saabs are expected to leave the fleet by the end of this year, followed by another eight in 2019 and the remaining Sweden-made aircraft set to be retired by 2020.
Kurt Brulisauer, the airline’s VP ground operations and technical operations, says Silver has made a series of investments in its MRO facility in recent years, including equipping technicians with iPads equipped with Wi-Fi calling, email and notes capability.
“This technology investment all goes down road of how we can be more mobile in our hangar,” he says.
Silver moved its maintenance operation 100 miles south from Gainsville, North Florida to Orlando in 2015 as part of $15 million investment. The site was previously operated by Comair, a defunct regional airline subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, and operates in addition to four line stations at locations in Tampa, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and a smaller base in Key West.
Brulisauer says during the transition, heavy maintenance was outsourced to third-parties due to challenges around relocating an operation such as losing technical staff. “The goal is to eventually get everything back into Orlando and in the Silver Airways network to accommodate work flow,” he says, following Silver allocating heavy checks to its in-house team of technicians at the end of 2017.
Given the period of transition anticipated, Brulisauer says a lot of focus will nevertheless remain on the Saab aircraft.
“Teams can easily get distracted by the arrival of new aircraft and wanting to learn about them but the Saabs will be in the Silver fleet for another three years yet,” he says.
“It’s about managing expectations and focusing on the present – there’s still heavy checks to be carried out on the Saabs even though the new ATRs will have their maintenance holidays over the next few years.”