Qantas will send its Boeing 717s offshore for their heavy maintenance checks after concluding keeping the work in Canberra was not sustainable.
The airline confirmed in a statement to Australian Aviation on Wednesday Singapore-based ST Aerospace had won the contract to do the heavy maintenance work on the 717s following a competitive tender process. The contract begins in July 2019.
“We’ll continue to do the majority of maintenance on our B717 aircraft in Canberra,” a Qantas spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
Qantas said about 25 QantasLink engineers at the Canberra hangar would continue this work.
Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) federal secretary Steve Purvinas said the move would leave 40 aircraft engineers out of work.
“Because the workers are contractors, there has been no consultation, there will be no redundancy payouts and the engineers will be left high and dry,” Purvinas said in a statement.
Qantas established the heavy maintenance facility in 2015, when it took the work off Cobham Aviation Services and brought it to Canberra.
At the time, ACT chief minister Andrew Barr said the agreement between the government and QantasLink to bring its 717 fleet to Canberra for heavy maintenance was for five years and allowed for further expansion.
The Qantas statement to Australian Aviation on Wednesday said the heavy maintenance work had been contracted out to a third-party provider Korr Aviation under a four-year contract that was due to expire in April 2019.
It said Korr Aviation would seek redeployment for its affected contractors, adding that opportunities within the Qantas group would also be explored.
In explaining the decision to take the work offshore, the statement said the maintenance requirements for the fleet of 20 717s over the next few years would include periods of up to a month where there would be no work for Korr Aviation’s contractors.
This was not sustainable, Qantas said.
Further, ST Aerospace’s facilities would help reduce repair times of components.
ST Aerospace is part of the Singapore Technologies Engineering group of companies and conducts maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) work at its facilities both in Singapore and around the Americas, Asia Pacific and Europe. The company says it is the largest commercial airframe MRO service provider.
Qantas said ST Aerospace was approved by Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and already did work for Qantas, Jetstar and Qantas Freight.
And all maintenance would be done with oversight from Qantas Engineering and Cobham staff.
Heavy maintenance involves stripping the aircraft and life-limited components, including engines, for detailed inspections and servicing.
Meanwhile, line maintenance covers tasks such as regular daily checks, minor servicing and repairing/replacing broken parts.
Cobham has flown the fleet of 20 717s for QantasLink since 2005, supplying pilots and cabin crew for the fleet. The company also conducts some line maintenance on the aircraft.
In 2016, the contract was extended for a further 10 years. Cobham told the London Stock Exchange the 10-year contract was worth A$1.2 billion.
In addition to serving regional routes mainly in Western Australia, Queensland, the Northern Territory and to Canberra, Qantas has in recent years utilised the 717 fleet on other capital city services, such as Hobart to Melbourne and Sydney, and Adelaide to Sydney.
The Qantas-Cobham relationship stretches back 25 years, given Cobham previously flew BAe-146 aircraft for QantasLink.
The end of heavy maintenance work in Canberra follows the progressive shuttering of Qantas’s engineering facilities at Sydney, Melbourne Tullamarine and Avalon, resulting in hundreds of job losses.
Qantas’s Brisbane hangar does heavy maintenance work on the 75 Boeing 737-800s and 28 Airbus A330-200/300 fleet.
The QantasLink hangar at Canberra Airport was originally built with ACT government support for Impulse Airlines to maintain the short-lived low-cost carrier’s Boeing 717s there.
Qantas acquired Impulse Airlines in 2001, inheriting the hangar before it was completed, as well as Impulse’s fleet of 717s. The hangar is designed to accomodate three 717s (or two 737s or a single 767).