WestJet operates Bombardier Q400s, Boeing 737NGs, MAXs, 767-300s and now 787-9s, of which it has ordered 10 and optioned another 10. Even with the opening of a new widebody hangar, the airline will continue to outsource heavy checks on it 787s, according to VP of Technical Operations John Kelly.
“The heavy maintenance, C checks and above, on the 787 will be outsourced to a qualified MRO,” Kelly says. “The MRO that performs this work has not been selected yet.”
Support of 787 components is outsourced to several companies, including Safran, Lufthansa Technic, Michelin and Air France Industries KLM E&M. Off-wing maintenance for 787’s GE Aviation GEnx-1B engines will be performed by AFI-KLM in Amsterdam. Line maintenance within Canada will be performed by WestJet, while LHT does line maintenance at all of Westjet’s international stations.
WestJet technical operations team consists of approximately 690 staff. These include a front line staff of 560 aircraft maintenance engineers and a support staff of 130. The new 787 hangar will assist this staff in several ways.
Westjet’s older hangars were all narrowbody hangars and could not accommodate 787s or 767s in a fully enclosed environment. With its first three 787s based in Calgary, the new hangar will enable WestJet do its share of maintenance on 787s and other widebodies indoors and at a very high standard. “We can perform line maintenance and lower-level checks at this location without having to ferry or route the aircraft elsewhere,” Kelly says. Mechanics can now work in a new, state-of-art environment at WestJet’s largest hub.
Kelly says he does not plan to bring more 787 work in-house. On the possibility of supporting third-party 787s in the future, he says only, “we want to make sure we have a good handle on our own operation and ensure its success. After we build up experience and optimize 787 operations, we would consider providing line maintenance to other operators should the opportunity present itself.”
As Westjet’s 787 and narrowbody fleets continue to grow, it will add more staff as required. Today, Kelly does not see a need for additional facilities. “But that could change in the future as the airline grows and the industry evolves.”