Spirit, JetBlue Ready to Move A320 Maintenance to Puerto Rico

By Woodrow Bellamy III  | December 2, 2014
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[Avionics Today 12-02-2014] Lufthansa Technik (LHT), the aircraft maintenance wing of German airline Lufthansa, is strengthening its presence in the Americas with a new overhaul facility, Lufthansa Technik Puerto Rico. The company recently broke ground on the 215,000 square foot facility located in Aguadillo, which will be ready to start providing base maintenance for Airbus A320s in July 2015. Spirit Airlines will be Lufthansa Technik’s first customer next year, followed by JetBlue. 
A rendering of what the future Lufthana Technik Puerto Rico facility will look like. Photo: Lufthansa Technik.
“JetBlue is already the dominant carrier in the Caribbean, with a strong hub in Puerto Rico,” Lufthansa Technik Puerto Rico CEO Elmar Lutter told Avionics Magazine. “Spirit flies into Aguadilla as well what makes exchanging aircraft between operations and maintenance extremely easy. Spirit has been an LHT customer for a long time. Puerto Rico is as ideal a location as Florida without the upward pressure on prices and wages there.”. 
Initially the facility’s five maintenance lines will provide service for A320 aircraft, According to Lutter. Eventually though, it will look to start providing service for the Boeing 737NG, he added. The services offered at the new facility will include “avionics installation and troubleshooting related to all repairs and modifications on the aircraft available for the A320,” according to Lutter.
The Puerto Rico announcement is the latest in a series of 2014 moves by LHT, Germany’s largest aircraft maintenance company, which included appointing a new chairman for its executive board; a renewed business jet cabin interior design agreement with Airbus; the introduction of its new e-configuration tools for pre-customized cabin designs; and an announcement that the company plans to invest more than $247 million toward the development of production technologies, measurement technology, improved MRO services, fault diagnosis and prognosis, robot-assisted repair processes, and automated test procedures.
Miramar, Fla.-based Spirit Airlines is looking forward to the opening of the new facility in a city that it flies to three times per week, Charlie Rue, vice president of Spirit’s supply chain, said during an interview with Avionics Magazine.
“As far as dropping in aircraft, having the Lufthansa team do the maintenance and then ferrying the aircraft out, we can basically ferry live aircraft in and live aircraft out by just swapping what aircraft is on the schedule with the one that’s in heavy maintenance,” said Rue. 
Currently, Spirit has a fleet of 63 Airbus A320 family aircraft, which the new facility will reportedly specialize in. 
“What we think is going to happen in Puerto Rico is we’re going to get an efficiency factor that is the number of hours it will take to complete our heavy checks that will be materially different than what we have seen before. Some of that will be better than what were doing in the [United] States and certainly better than competing locations in Central America,” said Rue. “Right now we have our maintenance done in Tampa with PEMCO. We’ll probably still do some work there but our core heavy maintenance will be done in Aguadilla.”

The next big overhaul process that Spirit will undergo will be the installation of NextGen-compliant Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) Out avionics, some of which Rue said will be done in Puerto Rico. 

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