Despite its financial difficulties, Gulf Air is planning to significantly expand its MRO activities by launching a separate maintenance, repair and overhaul division, says Jamal Hashim, director of Engineering and Airworthiness. Like Gulf Air itself, the new organization will be a subsidiary of Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Co., the Bahraini government’s investment company, Hashim told delegates at Aviation Week’s MRO Middle East Conference in Dubai.

Contracts have been signed for a hangar that Hashim expects to become operational within the next two years. The facility will be used for heavy airframe checks of Gulf Air aircraft, but the unit also will look to bring in work from other airlines.

Hashim says that Gulf Air has had negative experiences with maintenance outsourcing and therefore is now bringing the work back in-house. He conceded that the airline has lost “control over technical services” and found it difficult at times to manage the split among various maintenance providers. He expects the new venture to “improve quality, compliance and aircraft availability.”

The new unit initially will focus on airframe maintenance, but plans to add component capability over time, Hashim says, adding that he hopes to attract skilled labor trained at the Bahraini Gulf Aviation Academy.

Also during the conference, Hashim called for greater cooperation in the region. He points to the possibility of “great synergies if we adopt more collaboration in the Middle East.” In his view, airlines should look at component pools, in particular, to reduce inventories. And on the regulatory side, “there has to be more harmonization to make life easier for the airlines.” He concedes that there is already some joint work between authorities, “but it has not matured enough to become one common EASA-type regulation.”