Lufthansa Technik Maintenance International (LTMI) formally opened its new, and first, facility in South Africa on Wednesday afternoon. The facility has been established at Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport. A second facility is being set up Cape Town.
Both facilities are initially intended to provide line maintenance for South African private-sector airline company Comair, which operates the British Airways brand in South Africa and the Kulula low-cost airline. Comair operates a fleet comprised entirely of various models of Boeing 737s.
"For us, as Lufthansa Technik, we're really happy, with our different product divisions .... to find Comair here, as a partner to help us extend our footprint out of Europe," highlighted Lufthansa Technik VP: fleet services Markus Berberich in his address. "Comair, and Lufthansa Technik, it's a perfect match."
"This branch in South Africa is adding something special, something new, to our network," affirmed LTMI CEO Ulrich Hollerbach. He noted that his company had started to expand outside Europe two years ago.
Outgoing Comair CEO Erik Venter pointed out that his group had started to look for a new maintenance partner two years ago. They had sent out a request for proposals (RfP) and had hoped that Lufthansa Technik would respond. They were nevertheless surprised at the speed of Lufthansa Technik's reaction. Just ten days after Comair had put out its RfP, the German enterprise had responded with a complete package proposal for the South African operator.
"Two years has gone at an incredibly fast pace," he observed. "It was a tough ride for our technical team." Tight deadlines had to be met, to fit in with the delivery schedule for Comair's new 737 MAX airliners. Ironically, after the first MAX had been delivered, the type had to be grounded because of fatal accidents in Indonesia and Ethiopia. (Comair voluntarily grounded the single example it was operating.) Venter expressed optimism that the MAX would be returned to flight.
He further stressed that LTMI was bringing a new maintenance methodology to South Africa, which had become the internationally-accepted methodology. He added that senior South African Civil Aviation Authority officials had expressed excitement about this. "I hope that Lufthansa [TMI] expands rapidly in this part of the world, and that Comair is only their first customer."
LTMI has already recruited 45 South African aviation technicians, mechanics and managers, and planned to expand its local workforce to as many as 120 by the end of next year. "I assure you that we will invest in you [our local staff]," assured Hollerbach. "We will invest in training."