One of the recurrent hot topics around the Spanish economic crisis is the country's over-investment in airports (an issue we have already covered in this blog). I have to say that was also my first thought when I heard of the new airport opening in Teruel, in one of Spain's most sparsely populated areas.
But shortly after I learned that two Boeing 747s had just landed at Teruel airport, something which, obviously, intrigued me.
What could two of the largest aircraft in the World be doing at such a small airport? This can not be an ordinary airport, I thought.
It certainly isn't.
After getting in touch with the managing director at Aeropuerto de Teruel, Mr.Alejandro Ibrahim, I learned about the features that make of Teruel quite a special airport...
Teruel airport's main role is not to move passengers, although I am sure they would welcome them if there was an airline interested, an unlikely prospect, but to provide services to the aviation industry. In other words, it is a sort of giant repair shop for aircraft.
Aircraft, such as the two Boeing 747s, of Dutch carrier Martinair, come to Teruel airport to be repaired, stored or recycled.
The idea to build an "industrial" airport in Teruel to provide service to the aviation industry, was first put forward by a local businessman, Mr. López Soriano, who saw the opportunity existed to build such a facility. The project followed its course, with several amendments, and it got the support of the regional government of Aragón and it received funding from a local development programme called FITE. Teruel airport finally got the official authorization to start operations in February 2013.
Unlike other airports that have been built in Spain in recent years, Teruel airport seems to have a viable business plan. A private company, Tarmac Aerosave (a joint venture between Safran, Airbus and other industrial partners) has won the concession to operate the airport. It pays €1.25M per year for it, while the costs of running the airport are currently estimated at around €600,000 per year. General aviation flights, helicopters and advertising add also to the airport's revenue stream.
Tarmac Aerosave specializes in the dismantling and recycling of aircraft and already operates a simialr facility at Tarbes, in the South-West of France. Teruel airport, however, is on a much larger scale. If Tarbes has the capacity to store up to 25 aircraft at any one time, Teruel airport will have space for 225 aircraft. It will not only recycle but also act as a storage place and it also expects to grow its own MRO cluster (Maintenance, Repair and Operations).
Thus, a project that, if well executed, can not only be profitable but contribute to the local community (it is expected that around 100 jobs will be created) .
MRO might not be the most glamorous field within aviation but it's this type of less media-attracting activities where sometimes you can find he best opportunities...