Hyderabad: GMR Aero Technic (GAT), the MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) division of GMR Air Cargo and Aerospace Engineering Limited (GACAEL), has taken a giant leap in terms of aircraft maintenance and service in Asia, by adopting new technology in the form of an inflatable hangar. GAT is the only MRO in the Asia region to have installed such a hangar. The inflatable hangar can be used for multiple purposes including scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, engine or landing gear replacement.

GMR-led Delhi and Hyderabad airports have been leveraging the best of technologies: e-boarding, face recognition trials, contact-less self check-in kiosks, self-bag drops, and contact-less information desk to name a few.

The one bay narrow body inflatable hangar is sufficient to take in one B737 or A320 series aircraft which will add one additional bay to GAT's already existing seven bay capacity. With this additional line, GAT would be able to handle additionally 15 to 20 smaller base maintenance checks or four to five ends of lease checks per year.

It takes a considerable amount of time to source an available hangar and undertake unscheduled repairs. On the contrary, an inflatable hangar is cost-effective, reduces downtime to a minimum, and saves time and money as compared to building a conventional hangar. It also has the functionality, safety features, and structural stability of a conventional hangar.

"This inflatable hangar will help MRO take additional business and support our customers in meeting their timelines and commitments of aircraft operations and redeliveries. Such hangars are used as a proper alternative to conventional hangars by MROs in Europe and GCC for many years now. In the long term, we are looking at adding a couple of more hangars aimed at upgrading to include wide-body aircraft capability including painting, certain critical components workshops and military MRO business," said Ashok Gopinath, CEO, GMR Aero Technic.

The life of an inflatable hangar is 10 to 15 years. It is available in various sizes and made to order. The construction of a conventional hangar takes more than 18 months and the inflatable hangar can be constructed in three to four months. The inflatable hangar is also portable. It takes just one to two months to disassemble and assemble it at other locations. It is by far the most cost-effective and quickest way to add additional capacity as compared to building a conventional hangar or taking a similar facility on rent or lease.

The inflatable hangar is formed by low-pressure tubes aligned parallel to each other forming a "rib-cage" structure. This woven polyester base cloth with PVC coating hangar is both fire-retardant and waterproof. An automatic control system will be installed in the hangar, to continuously monitor and control operative parameters. The hangar is designed to withstand wind speeds up to 158.4 km/hr and can handle temperatures from -30 degree Celsius to +70 degree Celsius which makes it a perfect alternative for conventional solid metal hangars which are both expensive and time-consuming to build.

The inflatable hangar will serve as a dedicated base maintenance facility complementing the existing facility in GMR Aero Technic, Hyderabad, and help in optimising the already available resources in terms of manpower, tooling, support workshop etc. The inflatable hangar is equipped with doors, lighting, fire detection and extinguishing and ventilation system with centralised computer-based monitoring system including remote diagnostics. It is designed and built for regular continuous usage.

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