On a vast plain in eastern Spain, Teruel airport claims to be profitable without the need for passengers. Is dedicated to Storage, maintenance and recycling of aircraft, and since the pandemic blocked aircraft on the ground, demand has skyrocketed.
Under a glittering sun, Some 100 aircraft rest at this unusual airport, the largest platform in Europe dedicated to these services. Among the aircraft are nine Airbus A380s, the largest passenger aircraft, and a Boeing 747.
The motors are covered with red tarps, to prevent dirt or birds from nesting, and with their fluor yellow vests and tools in hand, employees work on checks, part replacements, or greasing.
"We have a global reach," he assured AFP the director of the airport, Alejandro Ibrahim. The client airlines are numerous: Air France, Lufthansa, British Airways, Iberia, Avianca, Etihad, China Eastern ...
Those responsible for the airport ensure that since opening in 2013 they haven't seen that many planes here, and they calculate that In a month the capacity cap could be reached, about 125 aircraft.
Teruel airport is located on a semi-desert high plateau in the Aragon region, in northeast Spain
For comparison, in March, before the COVID-19 pandemic triggered border closings and massive flight cancellations, there were 78.
"The service that we are giving to our clients, which are airlines and leasing, It has intensified, due to the need so important that there is now maintenance and long-term parking with specialized personnel, "emphasizes Ibrahim.
Maintain and recycle
Although the airport is managed by a public consortium, the services provided are the responsibility of Tarmac Aerosave, a private company with facilities in the French cities of Tarbes and Toulouse, in addition to Teruel. Between the three you can receive up to 250 devices.
In the Spanish city it has an 80-hectare concession, which includes the field to park the planes and two hangars, one of them 6,000 m² for wide-body aircraft.
The work is meticulous: parking alone involves daily, weekly, monthly or even semi-annual tasks, so that the plane, "when you want to return to your normal flight status, is in a position to do so," he explains in front of an Airbus A340. four-engine Pedro Sáez, general manager of Tarmac Aragón, the local branch of Tarmac Aerosave.
Outside the hangar you can also see at least five planes subjected to recycling, a service that allows to recover "94% of the weight of the airplane for use, again, in the aeronautical industry", explains Sáez listing the recycled elements: engines, landing gear, computers, flight controls, aluminum, steel, titanium ...
"They come to be an average of about 1,500 or 2,000 pieces that are used," he says.
A growing business
Teruel airport was conceived from its inception for industrial purposes, taking advantage of the abundant available space, on a plateau at 1,000 meters of altitude, and a dry and sunny climate favorable for the longevity of the devices.
It also helps a depopulation in the area that, if it has something good, is that "It is a non-congested site for air traffic, making it easy for aircraft to access," says Ibrahim.
In 2020, the director expects 24% more revenue in Teruel, which proposes more competitive rates for parking than a large commercial airport in use.
The prospects are so positive that a public investment of 25 million euros is expected in the next two years to, among other things, build a new hangar with capacity for two A380s, and expand the space for storage. "We will reach more than 350 aircraft" of capacity, says Ibrahim. It can grow, "agrees Pedro Sáez, confident that there will continue to be" strong demand "for the services of Tarmac, a company owned by the European Airbus consortium and the French companies Safran and Suez.
In the future, Alejandro Ibrahim does not rule out bringing passengers, but it would be a "residual" activity, in an airport proud to have found itself on the right side in the face of the abrupt halt in coronavirus-induced tourism.
"We did not have them before, we do not have them now, and that is why we are not affected by the traffic that there are currently no passengers," he summarizes.
(With information from AFP)
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