Guangzhou Aircraft Maintenance and Engineering Co. Ltd. (Gameco) sees lease returns as an opportunity as it looks to grow its third-party MRO business.

The a 50/50 joint venture of China Southern and Hutchison Whampoa is responsible for supporting the more than 430 aircraft operated by China Southern and affiliated carrier Xiamen Airlines, but still wants to grow its third-party business, say Norbert Marx, general manger, and David Conrad, director international sales and marketing. Lease returns are a “growing opportunity” as more carriers turn to leasing to finance their aircraft, says Conrad.

“We work closely with the airline to take the aircraft through the final [maintenance] cycle to get it ready for lease return,” he says.

According to Marx, Gameco does about 70% of its work for China Southern, which has a diverse fleet ranging from Embraer ERJ-145s and E-190s to Airbus A380s. The carrier is taking delivery of an average of one aircraft a week for the next five years. Its first Boeing 787 is due this summer.

The MRO plans to open a new eight-bay hangar in mid-2013 and a component repair center in 2014.

Gameco specializes in airframe maintenance and painting, component repair and line maintenance. Another area of opportunity could be landing gear overhaul. According to Conrad, Gameco performs assembly and disassembly, and outsources machining and plating on gears, but may develop that capability and bring the work in-house, initially on 737 gears.

Gameco has to balance its China Southern responsibilities with a third party, and its airline owner is supportive. “Exposing us to customers with different demands and standards is good for use,” Marx says.