Antair fuels up for the future
If the aerospace industry can sustain current growth rates, demand for aircraft maintenance services and spare parts will increase. Antair is preparing for that eventuality.
In 2009, Antair, which has been rendering air taxi services for Altos Hornos de México and its subsidiaries since 1995, obtained permission from Mexico's Civil Aeronautics Authority (DGAC, Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil) to set up its own maintenance shop. Shortly afterwards, between 2012 and 2013, the company decided to expand its facilities so it could not only service its own aircraft but also those of third parties.
In May 2013, following the granting of certifications by Eurocopter of Mexico and Turbomeca Mexico (Safran Group), Antair became the first maintenance, service, and inspection center for the former's Ecureuil helicopters and the latter's Arriel engines.
The investment required to get this project off the ground has been substantial, to say the least, but necessary to keep up with Mexico's aerospace sector, which is experiencing rapid growth, not just in the areas of aircraft manufacturing and assembly but in demand for maintenance and repair services.
According to sector documents compiled by ProMéxico, Mexico has the potential to become a global pole for a full range of aircraft services. Antair has been quick on the uptake and is already taking steps toward becoming a market leader within its area of influence: North of Mexico and the south of the US.
"We're going to see a lot more growth. Since 2004, Mexico's aerospace industry has registered sustained annual growth of almost 20%, and, in 2012, the value of its products and services increased 5.4 billion USD, positioning Mexico fourth on the list of countries to receive the most foreign investment in this sector," says Antair Administrative Director Mario Alberto Estrada.
Antair operates out of the Venustiano Carranza de Frontera International Airport in Coahuila, where it has two maintenance hangars, one covering 566 square meters and the other 2,450 square meters, and a jet fuel storage facility with a capacity of 83,000 liters. That location is strategic to its expansion, since it means the company can render services both north and south of the border with the US.
According to Estrada, "this is a period of substantial investment" and among Antair's priorities are the acquisition of specialized infrastructure, training for its mechanics, and the forging of strategic alliances with manufacturers of rotary and fixed-wing aircraft and aircraft engines.
To date, Antair has acquired experience in the repair and maintenance of Class 2, 3 and 4 jets –Pilatus' PC12-47/E and Kodiak's 100 model (2), Gulfstream's G-100, Gulfstream's G-II, G-III, G-IV and G-V; Cessna's C550 and Dassault's F10 (3), and G-V and Cessna's C-680 (4)–, and in the repair and maintenance of Class 1 helicopters, including Eurocopter's AS355N, AS350B3 and AS350B3e models, Turbomeca's Arriel 2B, 2B1 and 2D engines, Pratt & Whitney's PTAA6A-67B/P, PT6A-34, PW-306C and JT15D-4 models, Honeywell's TFE 731-40R- 200G and TFE731-2-1C, and Rolls Royce's SPEY 511-8 and Tay Park 611-8. It also conducts altimetric inspections and has a nickel, cadmium, and lead-acid battery shop.
When Eurocopter of Mexico and Turbomeca Mexico heard about Antair's 2012- 2013 expansion, they got in touch with the company, made the necessary visits, and promoted the alliances that resulted in the company becoming an authorized service center.
"Antair has always been a company concerned with quality in its operations and in the areas of employee training and safety," says Estrada. "When the Eurocopter and Safran executives came, they saw that everything was in order and we were able to para apply for and obtain certification."
The company is currently seeking to establish an alliance with Honeywell Aerospace for the distribution of its products, services and warranties in Mexico and has plans to enter into alliances with other avionic companies similar to those it currently enjoys with Eurocopter and Safran. "A strategic alliance with manufacturers translates into added value for our customers because it's a guarantee everything is done by the book," says Estrada.
Training as a Differentiator
When Antair decided to start rendering third party services, it set itself the goal of becoming a market leader on the strength of its mechanics' dedication to the job and level of expertise.
"We are implementing an intensive training program. We have sixteen mechanics, with twenty years' experience on average, applying for American licenses," says Estrada. These licenses, combined with the validation of its shop and FAA authorization will enable Antair to focus its commercial efforts on the US, where it has the advantage of being a close service option that offers quality at competitive costs.
Despite the outlays of 2009 and 2012 for the acquisition of machinery, the expansion of its shop and the swelling of its payroll from four to sixteen mechanics, Antair continues to spend considerable sums on sending its mechanics to aircraft maintenance centers and factories in the US and Europe for training. "Several of our technicians are specializing with a view to becoming Master Technicians," says Estrada.
To keep the company on an even growth trajectory on a par with that of Mexico's aerospace industry, Antair will continue to spend on training, take measures to attract more investment, and make an incursion into other service areas, such as aircraft painting and non-destructive testing.