Kalitta Air has invested $35 million in its Oscoda, Mich., maintenance base to position it to compete on the international third-party airframe and engine MRO market. Since 2001, Kalitta Maintenance has served as the operator's in-house MRO at Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport, focusing on narrowbody and widebody Boeing, Airbus and legacy McDonnell Douglas jets.

“Four years ago, we decided to expand the MRO into third-party work as a way to stabilize the company through the peaks and valleys of our charter business,” says Connie Kalitta, chairman/CEO of the Ypsilanti, Mich.-based carrier. “Our goal is to increase our MRO business to the point where it becomes a stand-alone operation, while continuing to serve the maintenance needs of our airline.” Kalitta Air operates 10 Boeing 747-200s and seven 747-400s.

Kalitta reports that as recently as 3-4 years ago, Kalitta Air accounted for 95% of the activity at the MRO. That has decreased to 35% as the company books more contract engine and airframe heavy inspections and repairs. While airframe work is primarily from North America, the engine service business is growing globally, he adds.

An FAA Part 145 repair station with Class 4 airframe and Class 3 engine certification, Kalitta Maintenance employs more than 700 workers, of whom 70% are airframe & powerplant (A&P) licensed, averaging 19 years of experience. Kalitta cites the facility's stable, experienced workforce, and lower overhead costs among the location's competitive benefits.

The MRO added 335,000 sq. ft. of hangar and shop space during the past three years. That includes a newly built, single-bay, 80,000-sq.-ft. hangar able to accommodate one 747-8 and up to two MD-11s. By the end of this July, the company will open an 81,000-sq.-ft. hangar with overhead door clearance able to accommodate a Lockheed C5, says Eric Couvreur, Kalitta Air's director of maintenance.

“With the new hangar, we expect to add 150-170 employees, and to increase our civilian and military customer business,” Kalitta says.

Over the past 12 months, Kalitta Air has added 12 gantry positions and another 13,000 sq. ft. of engine shop space, for a total of 28 gantry positions. Couvreur reports they were added to increase production on all engine types, but with a focus on the GE types within the facility's capability to support growth. “This will give us the capacity to overhaul, annually, up to 80 engines on which we are certified,” he says.

Kalitta's staff, in collaboration with ATEC Engineering of Houston, also has designed and brought on stream a new 10-meter (33-ft.), 100,000-lb.-thrust-capable engine test cell. It accommodates powerplants that the MRO overhauls and repairs, which include the Pratt & Whitney JT9 and JT8 families (except the JT8-200); and the GE CF6-50 and -80.

The MRO is certified for line base, top case and tear-down for the CFM56-3 and -7, with complete overhaul certification on those engines “to be announced soon,” according to Couvreur. Other engine work focuses on auxiliary power units (APU), specifically the Garrett GTCP-85 and GTCP-660-4, and Pratt & Whitney-Canada PWC 901A.

“CFM56 overhauls require high-speed grinding, which can accomplish in seven hours what low-speed grinding systems need 40 to do,” and this is leading the MRO to install the machinery by August, says Couvreur.

One of the major infrastructure enhancements at Oscoda took place last October, when Kalitta Air purchased the equipment—specific to the overhaul, repair and testing of the CFM56-3 and -7B, and GE CF6-80C and -E—from LTQ Engineering, a now-closed Lufthansa Technik and Qantas Airways joint venture located in Tullamarine, Australia. Kalitta Maintenance installed that equipment at its facility in December.