Solenta Aviation, which operates sub-Saharan cargo flights for DHL from its base in Johannesburg, South Africa, and also maintains aircraft for other African airlines, plans to expand its support work in the future, says Technical Director Johann Kruger.
“By the fourth quarter of 2019, we will be the African conversion center for IPR,” Kruger notes. IPR offers passenger-to-freight conversions, including a large cargo door and structural tube conversion for ATR72s
Solenta offers line and base maintenance on all ATR42s and 72s, Embraer 135s and 145s, as well as Beechcraft 1900s, Czech LET 410s and Cessna 208 Caravans. Kruger wants to expand geographical coverage of this maintenance support. “We currently service airlines from Namibia and Ghana and soon hope to offer services to Botswana,” he says.
To do this, the MRO division plans to add a second facility at its base in Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport by the fourth quarter of 2019.
Solenta already has leased hangars or access to hangars across a wide swathe of markets, from the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Togo, Chad, Gabon, Zimbabwe and Mozambique in Africa, to Cuba, Afghanistan and Iraq. Its maintenance staff includes more than 160 engineers, mechanics, apprentices and supporting technical staff.
Kruger acknowledges he faces challenges in recruiting more staff to support growth, “especially with South African-registered ATRs.” Solenta is the only South African company that operates ATRs, so the pool of technicians with ATR licenses can only come from Solenta. “Hence, the mechanic and apprentice program we run in-house," he says.
The airline MRO also uses labor-broker agencies from all over the world. Most placements so far have come from South African and UK labor brokerages.