Five 5: CSAT Eyes ATR PTF Conversions In 2022
Pavel Hales, CEO of Czech Airlines Technics (CSAT), talks to James Pozzi about potential plans to introduce ATR passenger-to-freighter conversions in Prague next year and why it is adding further MRO capacity at its main base.
After a difficult 18 months for the industry, how is CSAT looking to the recovery?
It depends on the individual divisions of course. The market is different in landing gears than it is base maintenance, for example. Overall, 2020 wasn't a good one for maintenance. In the summer months, we fortunately compensated some of the airline maintenance revenues with work from leasing companies. For line maintenance, we've remained flexible in all our stations and are awaiting further recovery from the airlines. There are signs of this as we are about to start work on a new contract with an airline customer in Prague from this month. There is also some widebody work coming in the form of charter operators, although the widebody market will take another two to three years to recover. However, the likes of Delta and United announcing returns back to Prague from next summer is an encouraging sign for the region.
This year has seen CSAT add new base maintenance capabilities for the Airbus A320neo and the Boeing 737 Max.
There are two reasons: the first being airlines. We carried out our first check on the 737 Max aircraft for LOT Polish Airlines in April 2021. A large share of those markets are back in the air and flying again so these carriers need the maintenance. The second reason was the leasing companies: they have Max aircraft in parking or storage regionally so there was a need to carry out some services on those aircraft. I expect the narrowbody market to start rebounding properly in the next year.
Are you considering adding more capabilities beyond the A320neo and the 737 Max?
Not for base maintenance services as we have a good scope of aircraft covered. But we are hoping to expand capacity from five to six lines next year based on leasing company demand and some airline recovery.
How has the introduction of aircraft storage services in October 2020 played out?
This was part of the COVID-19 crisis that presented opportunities. We possessed the know-how and experience which enabled a good environment for leasing companies and we are still helping them with both short-term and long-term storage. What is important to them is the process of full registration to approval for flying condition. We are providing CAMO support and our own crew is able to do test and ferry flights. We had more than 100 parking slots at its peak, ranging from airlines such as Finnair and Transavia to many leased aircraft.
How are you approaching the cargo market?
Prague isn't much of a hub for cargo airlines, but we have provided line maintenance services for the likes of FedEx and UPS. What we can do is consider how to implement aircraft conversion services from passenger to cargo. There are not so many companies doing it for ATR aircraft, so we are exploring at how we can start doing these services from April next year. Right now, we have some customers in discussion. We already have the capability in place along with the workforce and are just awaiting agreement with customers.