Aircraft manufacturer Boeing on Friday revealed that it was firm on its commitment to invest $100 million in the Nagpur Special Economic Zone and has signed a lease agreement with the developer of the SEZ, the Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC), for allotment of 50 acres of land. Boeing intends to set up a maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) facility, a first of its kind for India, at the SEZ.
Boeing’s Vice-President (sales) Dinesh Keskar said that the deal should put to rest all speculations about the Boeing MRO at Nagpur. The Seattle-based company had first evinced interest in setting up the MRO at Nagpur in 2006.
However, as there was little progress after the announcement by the Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and Vice Chairman and Managing Director of MADC R C Sinha, there were rumours about Boeing having abandoned the project.
A local organisation Vidarbha Economic Development Council (VED) moved the High Court for clarification from the authorities on the issue.
Expressing concern over the developments and the lack of clarity, the High Court had appointed an Amicus Curiae (friend of the court) to talk to Boeing on the matter and coordinate with the multiple agencies involved in the deal.
Keskar explained the delay in signing the lease deed as the time required to finalise tie-ups. He said that the aircraft major expected to have the facility up and running by 2010. A former student of the city-based Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology (VNIT), Keskar said that Nagpur was a logical choice for setting up the MRO base as the climate here suited such an endeavour. The generally dry weather of Nagpur was ideal for aircraft overhauling as parts do not corrode in a climate virtually without any humidity. Apart from this, Nagpur is the only airport in the country, which has an SEZ next to it.
Keskar hoped that the MADC would now construct a taxiway from the existing runway at the international airport to allow Boeing to tow aircraft to its hangars. He said that the MRO base would require several hangars to accommodate two wide-bodied aircraft and four smaller ones at a time. Bids to construct the hangars would soon be invited, Keskar disclosed. The Nagpur MRO would be Boeing’s second in the region. The first is being built at Shanghai in China.
The senior executive of the company said that Boeing would be recruiting locally for its enterprise here. “We are yet to finalise our requirement but we would be recruiting locally as talent is available here and would prove to be cost-effective,” he said. Keskar said that Air India was partnering with Boeing in the venture and would be providing technical expertise and support in running the MRO. He said that aircraft maintenance was a new business area for Boeing while Air India has a long experience in maintaining various kinds of aircraft.
Boeing’s investment in the MRO base is understood to be a part of its deal with Air India, which has given the aircraft major its biggest ever order of 68 aircraft. Keskar said that 23 of these aircraft had already been delivered. He said Jet Airways has also sourced 15 Boeing 737s, while Spicejet was also in the process of finalising its requirement. The MRO base thus would also be taking business from airlines other than Air India, Keskar said.
He said that a Tata Group company, TAL has already commenced operations in the SEZ and was making floor beams for Boeing Dreamliner aircraft. The TAL facility was also a part of the off-set deal between the Indian government and Boeing.