Maintenance in a big way
Two titans of the commercial aerospace industry have joined forces to develop the largest MRO of its kind in Latin America. They have selected Querétaro on the basis of the state's established muscle in the sector. The future appears bright.
The main hangar at Querétaro Intercontinental Airport occupied by TechOps' center of excellence for maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) is big enough to fit two Boeing 747s, the largest aircraft assembled to date in the world.
That gives an idea of the scale of the project embarked on in March 2014 by the heads of the two parent companies, Delta Airlines and Aeroméxico, and the President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto.
As a result of its size, technology and service capacity, TechOps México in Querétaro is already considered the largest of its kind in Latin America. As its CEO, Miguel Ángel Uribe, puts it: "An investment on this scale by Grupo Aeroméxico in alliance with Delta –one of the largest firms in the US and worldwide– is unprecedented."
Uribe recalls that, in their day, Aeroméxico and the now defunct Mexicana de Aviación were pioneers of MRO services in Mexico. TechOps México represents a new stage in the Mexican aeronautics sector, with an investment of 55 million USD by Delta Airlines and Aeroméxico in infrastructure, technology, training programs for technicians and the creation of a 100,000 square meter facility.
When operating at maximum capacity –in phase one of the overall project–, TechOps México will be able to service up to nine aircraft simultaneously. The plan is that four of these lines will be allocated to the Delta fleet, two to Aeroméxico and the rest made available to third parties.
TechOps México has installed equipment for metrology processes and nondestructive testing. It has workshops for machining, doors, composite materials, cadmium-plating and alloys, electrical and electronics and painting cells for removable parts of the fuselage, among others. Part of the investment was spent on ensuring the center is environmentally friendly.
"We installed approximately 8% to 10% translucent material in the roofs and doors of our hangars, allowing more natural light to enter and reducing our consumption of electric power," Uribe points out.
TechOps México in Querétaro also makes use of LED lighting technology and has installed its own racks of solar panels, which not only generate up to one megawatt (MW) of power each year –the largest in the industry–, but also provide shade for the site parking lot. The center of excellence also incorporates a rainwater collection and recycling system.
The commitment made at the start of the center's operations was that by the end of 2014, five of its nine lines of work would be running. Uribe reveals that to date, seven lines are already active and in 2015 the center will reach its maximum capacity, with nine lines in operation.
Achievements grounded in training
The decision to establish TechOps México at Querétaro Intercontinental Airport, to one side of the Querétaro Aerospace Park, is no coincidence. Here, Delta Airlines and Aeroméxico have found a strategic ally: the Aeronautic University in Querétaro (UNAQ).
"UNAQ's investment in training programs has been strong. We have two priority and very extensive programs; one is Education to Employment (E2E) where students are trained as skilled aviation technicians, starting from zero right up to the development of hands-on and on the job training (OJT), enhancing their skills and finally formalizing the process related to the license grants. The other program is the recurrent and continuous training for license renewal," says Uribe.
Thanks to that partnership, more than two hundred technicians are undergoing training on the maintenance of the Boeing 737s, McDonnell Douglas models 80 and 90 and EMB 170/190 aircraft the MRO will focus on. "We hope that in a couple of years' time we will begin to develop capacities with Airbus, as well," adds Uribe.
Adding UNAQ-trained technicians to those that joined the firm from Aeroméxico and other Mexican companies, TechOps México can now boast 800 technicians in a total workforce of 1,173 employees.
TechOps México has been granted 145 certifications by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for repair stations and the equivalent from the Mexican Department of Civil Aviation (DGAC).
Uribe says that the new structure will allow TechOps México to guarantee improved delivery times to Aeroméxico, Delta and third operators, which to date have made positive remarks about the level of service and cost structure offered by TechOps México.
"It is an alliance that has helped us to strengthen clientsupplier communication and, in the most recent review processes we have undertaken, the quality is unbeatable while the cost structure is aggressively competitive worldwide," Uribe confirms.
The missing link
Miguel Ángel Uribe believes that TechOps México is the final link in a virtuous circle in the aerospace industry in Querétaro. The parent companies saw that the state already possessed a suitable airport, centers specializing in airframe manufacture and repair of aircraft parts, the UNAQ technical school and a DGAC center for certification of aircraft parts. There was just one missing link: a center of excellence for major airframe repair.
"The overriding objective was to fill a gap in the market and in Querétaro, where there was no MRO for airframes, in particular. In line with the vocation of the state, where great work has been done to attract firms of global quality, we have completed the aerospace industry circle," Uribe concludes.