Irish aircraft painting specialist Maas Aviation has recently invested up to an estimated €15 million in expanding its facilities in Europe and the US to handle contracts for Airbus and other manufacturers.
Maas is completing work on a twin-bay hangar at its most recently-established base in Mobile, Alabama to paint new Airbus craft as they come off the nearby assembly line where the European giant produces its A320 models.
While Maas does not publish figures on the amounts it invests in its facilities, a twin-hangar of the type it has built in Mobile would cost about €10 million. The company has also been working on a new single-bay hangar at its plant in Hamburg, Germany. Industry estimates of the cost of this run at between €3 million and €5 million.
According to head of marketing Gerry Prizeman, the company has agreed to build a second twin-bay hangar in Mobile should Airbus require it. Given the projected demand for Airbus craft over the next 10 years, he said, Maas was hopeful that it would be going with the second hangar at some point.
US airlines currently fly more than 1,400 of the producer’s aircraft. “They have a very full order book,” he said. “Airbus may well make a decision that they need a second hangar.”
The company’s contract with Airbus does not exclude it from painting craft made by other manufacturers, including Airbus’s main rival, Boeing. Mr Prizeman explained that craft have to be painted for protection and against corrosion in the first instance, and need to be repainted at various points during their lives.
“We paint planes, it’s that simple,” Mr Prizeman said. “They have to be painted and repainted at intervals. Then, if an aircraft is coming off lease with one airline and being moved to another, it has to be re-liveried. Or if one airline takes over another, it also has to be re-liveried.”
Maas recently extended a funding line it has with Bibby Financial Services to €2.8 million from €1.3 million to ensure that it could meet the demands that come with its expansion. Finance manager Suzanne Rogers said the business operated on 70-day credit terms, which means that it has to carefully manage working capital. The deal with Bibby Financial Services will service its European operations.
Darragh Hall, the company’s managing director, established Maas as Expressair Aviation with one hangar in Shannon 35 years ago. The late Tony Ryan’s leasing business, GPA, invested five years later and Expressair subsequently set up a base in Maastricht.
Its original shareholders bought back GPA’s stake in 1993 after GE Capital Aviation Services bought the lessor. Maas is now headquartered in Donabate in Dublin, from where it manages its painting facilities in Hamburg, Maastricht and Mobile.
It now ranks as one of the world’s top companies in its field and employs more than 150 people between Europe and the US. It recently hired a new group of workers in Mobile and brought them to Europe for training.
Published in the Irish Times, Monday 23rd January 2017