Airframe disassembly specialist Aircraft End-of-Life Solutions (AELS), bolstered by fresh investment capital, is moving its headquarters to a recently-reopend airport and plans to pursue higher-value projects, including newer narrowbodies.
Speaking to MRO-Network on the sidelines of this week’s Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association (AFRA) annual conference, AELS CEO Derk-Jan van Heerden said the new operation, at Enschede Airport Twente, Netherlands, provides more flexibility.
"The movement to the new facility gives us the opportunity to do widebodies,” van Heerden says. "It gives us more options.”
AELS is based in Zoetermeer, where it also houses parts. Most disassembly is done at Aviolanda Woensdrecht. Twente, a former air base that re-opened for limited use in 2016 after eight dormant years, has a 7,500-ft. runway, taxiways and ramp space to handle widebodies, as well as ample warehousing space for parts. Before, AELS had to sent crews to disassemble most widebodies on location due to airfield constraints at its current facility.
Work at Twente is underway, with AELS disassembling a former Swiss International Air Lines A340-300 purchased from a European lessor. The first usable parts are returning from repair stations and orders are beginning to come in, says van Heerden.
AELS will not shutter its Zoetermeer and Woensdrecht locations immediately, but any growth will take place at Twente. The expansion comes on the heels of investements from Innovation Fund Overijssel--which bolsters eco-friendly economic development in the province where Twente is located--and Dutch capital investor Aalberts Investments.
After launching AELS in 2006 as purely a dismantling service provider, Van Heerden—who also serves as AFRA’s president—expanded into airframe USM business four years ago. Today, parts sales account for more than 70% of AELS's revenue.
The capital injection gives AELS the resources to buy more sought-after airframes, such as mid-life Airbus A320s and Boeing 737NGs—“newer old aircraft" that will feed each fleet’s used-serviceable material (USM) demand, Van Heerden says. AELS is targeting 12 tear-downs per year by 2020. It handled four in 2016 and matched that figure in the first six months of this year.
"We’re taking the next step in the process, as new markets open and newer aircraft become available,” van Heerden says.