Printed headline: New Airport Brings MRO Capacity Boost
April 6, 2019, ushered in a new era in Turkish aviation. Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, built in 1953 and named in honor of the Turkish republic’s founder, saw its final commercial flight early that Saturday morning. Just hours later, full transfer of commercial flights to the new Istanbul Airport—a process that began with some flights nearly six months before—was completed, along with the transfer of Ataturk’s International Air Transport Association (IATA) airport code to the new hub.
Built for about $12 billion and following on from other large-scale government-led infrastructure projects, Istanbul Airport takes over Ataturk’s mantle as the gateway between East and West. It could eventually become the world’s largest by passenger numbers, handling an estimated 200 million passengers annually after all four phases of construction are completed, with six runways and four terminals set to be operating by 2028.
Ataturk not only served as a large hub for operators such as flag carrier Turkish Airlines, AtlasGlobal and low-cost airline Onur Air but also was home to a high level of MRO activity. Turkish Airlines transferred its headquarters and operations from Ataturk in early April, a process of just 33 hr. Affiliate Turkish Technic, the country’s largest MRO provider, operated five widebody and seven narrowbody hangars at Ataturk.
Turkish Technic transferred more than 5,000 components and 10,000 aircraft parts into newly built workshops and warehouses in early April, shortly before the full commercial flight transfer was completed. Technic’s manpower was also relocated, with more than 3,000 roles from engineers and mechanics to administrative personnel making the 26-mi. journey north.
As of this summer, Technic is running line maintenance services at Istanbul Airport, along with A checks, cabin maintenance, structural repair and component pool services for several aircraft at the same time from its new hangar. However, the MRO is aiming for the airport to act as a single-source maintenance location, with multiple facilities currently under construction.
By 2023, Technic’s proposed MRO complex will be in place to carry out more services, operating in addition to existing hangars at Sabiha Gokcen International Airport and Ankara. The move will also certainly alleviate capacity issues at Ataturk, enabling the company to seek more third-party work. “When all phases of the construction are completed, Technic will be operating on 500,000 m2 [5.4 million ft.2] of space, with facilities delivering base maintenance services for up to 19 widebody and 26 narrowbody aircraft simultaneously,” a company spokesperson says.
Given the abundance of capacity, along with the volume of domestic and international traffic passing through, other Turkish MROs are also considering setting up there. MyTechnic, which has its main facility at Sabiha Gokcen, where it offers line and base maintenance services for Boeing and Airbus aircraft, is looking to set up a line maintenance facility at Istanbul Airport by the end of 2020.
Haluk Hadi Acar, director of commercial, says the company has already acquired land from Istanbul’s airport authority; he estimates the facility will be 3,200-4,300 ft.2. “This will be more than enough to facilitate our needs for line maintenance services,” he says.
However, one MRO that does not expect to be moving to Istanbul Airport is AMAC Aerospace, which operates one small line station at Sabiha Gokcen Airport and a hangar at Ataturk focused on business jets, along with another facility at Bodrum Airport in south Turkey specializing in commercial aircraft repairs.
“Since Ataturk Airport has become more attractive for business jet owners after the opening of the new airport, by means of less traffic and slot capacity issues as well as being in a city center location, we have no intention to open a service station at the new airport for the moment and will keep providing services at Ataturk Airport,” explains Fikret Yazicioglu, general manager, Istanbul at AMAC Aerospace.