The Ministry of Civil Aviation has reached out to the Ministry of Defence asking them to facilitate the servicing of defence aircraft at Air India’s Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities.
In a bid to expand its business to defence aircraft, Air India Engineering Services Limited (AIESL) had even applied for a bid to service Indian Air Force’s IL-78 mid-air refueller aircraft and four Brazilian Embraer-135 aircraft used to transport VIPs earlier this year.
However, the bids were rejected as AIESL does not have the mandatory authorisation certification required to be obtained for servicing these planes from the Russian-based OEMs. And now Aviation Ministry is expected to request Ministry of External Affairs to take up the matter with Russia.
“Suitable measures may kindly be initiated to negotiate with OEMs [original equipment manufacturer] of defence aircraft to give training and maintenance manuals so that we can maintain the defence aircraft at much cheaper cost and better turnaround time, as compared to giving the maintenance to OEMs abroad,” Civil Aviation Secretary RN Choubey wrote to Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra recently.
Air India’s MRO unit — (AIESL) — currently carries out MRO activities for commercial aircraft of various Boeing and Airbus fleet type at its facilities based in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Thiruvananthapuram , Nagpur and Kolkata.
“There is a clause of OEM certification. OEM is not willing to transfer the knowledge or skill nor is allowing AIESL to certify,” AIESL chief executive officer HR Jagannath had said in a meeting on January 25, adding that the IL-78 aircraft was being sent to Russia for maintenance at present.
“Under the Make in India scheme, these aircraft should be maintained in India and by doing so, India can save a lot of foreign exchange,” the AIESL CEO added.
Jagannath in a letter to the Defence Secretary that getting the maintenance manual details from OEMs was essential for maintaining any aircraft. “AIESL is capable of maintaining narrow-body as well as wide-body aircraft of any manufacturer. Defence establishments can make use of our facilities, including hangars, which are spread all over the country.”
According to the recent report released in July, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), had pointed out to “several deficiencies in infrastructure facilities and maintenance and repair of the existing IL fleet.” The report said that India had only one hangar for 14 IL-76 aircraft and one for six IL-78 planes, which are due for overhaul in 2018-19.
“Due to non-availability of hangars, the costly air assets remained in the open which adversely affected their serviceability and life,” it pointed out.