Lleida-Alguaire Airport to host a privately-owned aircraft maintenance centre

By early 2013 the Airport of Lleida-Alguaire, located in Western Catalonia next to the border with Aragon, will have a maintenance centre with a capacity to host up to 50 airplanes like the Airbus model A320. The private company AirHoster will invest €3 million in building the initial facilities. 75 jobs will be created, as well as a school to train technicians. The Lleida-Alguaire Airport has received very few flights since it opened its doors in January 2010, most of them run by tour operators bringing skiers to the Pyrenees.

CNA / Oriol Bosch

October 6, 2012 02:09 AM

Alguaire (ACN).- The Lleida-Alguaire Airport, located in Western Catalonia, will have an innovative aircraft maintenance centre, which will have the capacity to host up to 50 airplanes such as the Airbus A320 model. The private company AirHoster will initially invest €3 million in building the facilities, which will be running by early 2013. The company plans to immediately start construction and will rent the needed space from the Catalan Government, which owns the airport. The project will create 15 direct jobs and 50 indirect ones. Furthermore, it includes the building of a school to train aircraft maintenance technicians. In addition, there will be a zone for recycling planes and their components, in order to give them added value. Right now, these services are only provided in the United States or South Africa, said the company managers. This project will boost the Lleida-Alguaire Airport, which has operated very few flights since it opened its doors in January 2010. The airport is the only one in Western Catalonia. It is strategically located next to urban areas, the border with Aragon and less than 1 hour drive from Pyrenees ski resorts. In fact, tour operators run flights through Lleida-Alguaire bringing British and Russian tourists to ski in the Catalan Pyrenees and Andorra. The Catalan Government expects to increase these sorts of flights in the coming season and has been negotiating with tour operators. Thomas Cook has already scheduled 4 weekly flights from the UK during the next winter season.

On Friday the private company AirHoster has presented the project to the press. It signed the definitive agreement with the Catalan Government last Wednesday, within the framework of the Airport’s Strategic Table, which was created together with the local authorities and business association to foster the infrastructure’s activity.

The Catalan Minister for Transport, Lluís Recoder, was satisfied with the agreement. Recoder praised the jobs created and the private investment. He also emphasised that the project has no cost for the Catalan Government. On the contrary the company will pay rent to the Catalan Executive, who owns the 13.5 hectares that will be occupied by the new maintenance centre. In addition, the Minister explained that the company will rent additional office space in the airport’s main building. Recoder told the press that the rent will be a fixed amount or a variable one, depending on the final business arrangement.

Recoder explained that the Catalan Government’s project for Lleida-Alguaire is to create a “specialised aeronautical cluster” which will have “an educational pillar” to train technicians. The Catalan Minister is convinced about the airport’s high possibilities to become “a niche of opportunities”. He also lamented that this infrastructure is often put in the list of projects built throughout Spain that have ended up “being a fiasco” in terms of profitability. According to Recoder this is “unfair”.

AirHoster’s CEO, Jaime Comín explained that the operational capacity of this “unique park in Europe” will be able to host 50 Airbus 320 or Boeing 737 planes. Comín underlined that despite the fact that the company has just been created the staff has more than 20 years of experience in the sector. He also emphasised they had been working on the project for many months before announcing it to the press.

They have chosen Lleida-Alguaire to set up their project for its “unbeaten” technical characteristics and strategic location. The potential clients of AirHoster’s services are commercial companies that operate in Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East, as well as leasing companies. Comín released the information that they have already some operations hired, although he did not disclose the details.

The aeronautical centre will have a parking space, to host aircrafts during the periods they are not operational. In addition, they will offer maintenance surveys to guarantee the aircraft’s navigation conditions after the time being parked up. They will also offer other services related to the provision of components, regular check-ups, painting, engine maintenance, etc. In addition, there will be a zone for recycling planes and their components, in order to give them added value. Right now, these services are only provided in the United States or South Africa, said Comín.