Shaune de Plessis Lee Ann Shay/Aviation Week

Fast 5: Bahrain Operator Launches Pemco 737 Freighter

Texel Air in Bahrain operates two Boeing 737-300 freighters for charter freight operations, carrying anything from food to fuel. Shaune du Plessis, director of maintenance, talks about how the operator’s maintenance will expand and its opportunities for third-party work.

Texel Air just announced plans to expand its freighter aircraft with Pemco converted aircraft. Can you provide details?

We take delivery of our first Flexcombi 737-700FC from Pemco in June and the second one in November. That aircraft will have a removal smoke barrier so it will accommodate freight, and you can remove the bulkhead to accommodate more freight or more passengers in the back. Our CEO (George Chisholm) also just announced that we will be the launch customer for Pemco’s 737-700 full freighter in 2020. So there’s a growth strategy for the Part 145 maintenance side with that, as well. There also could be additional opportunities for business growth as we gain experience on the engine.

With more aircraft and more maintenance coming soon, what changes will you have to make to your staff, tooling, facility, etc?

We actually have a very good facility in Bahrain. Tooling wise we already are geared up for the 737 Classic and NG, so there’s no issue on that side. Of course, with a higher demand for maintenance, we’ll require more flexible, nimble employees. I think that’s a common denominator even for bigger MROs right now. The staunch workforce mentality doesn’t work with MROs anymore, especially with variable operations. We don’t have a regular flight schedule, so that could be a challenge. Texel is fortunate in that the core group of people that we have, engineers and mechanics, already are very flexible. We treat our employees fairly and well—it is a give and take situation—and they do so with the organization, as well.

How much of Texel Air’s hangar capacity is designated for third-party maintenance?

Most of it is dedicated to our operation but we are looking to increase third-party activity within a niche market. We’re looking for customers who operate a Boeing Business Jet or a private, for instance, where their utilization won’t require a bigger slot. 

Texel Air received its EASA Part 145 approval in 2017. How has getting that maintenance organization approval changed your operation?

The EASA approval is more for us to look at growth—not just for Boeings but Airbus A320 family aircraft, as well. We are actively looking for A320 work, either in a niche market or even for an operator who wants to use our facility. The EASA approval makes us more flexible. A lot of people value EASA approvals.

You mentioned engines. Does Texel aspire to provide deeper maintenance than line offerings?

At the moment, we don’t have a scope for component maintenance. But with growth, if could be an area we get into.

Bahrain is very fortunate to be where it is. It’s a niche market. The Kingdom of Bahrain is a small island but it is central to everything. There is still definitely opportunity for aviation in Bahrain.

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