The aircraft maintenance and recycling giant has doubled its workforce in the last four years and expects to do so again in the next four. It now aspires to manage the new hangar, which can accommodate two Airbus A-380s.
Teruel airport (PLATA) offers a very particular image: a multitude of stranded aircraft, but not a single passenger. This is the visual manifestation of a successful operating model, in which the storage, recycling and maintenance of aircraft is one of its central axes. Tarmac has been working on these tasks since the airport opened a decade ago. During this period, the company has shown a growth that, if the prospects are fulfilled, will continue to double its workforce in the next four years.
So says its director, Pedro Sáez, who estimates that they can double the current 220 jobs if conditions are met, such as the recovery of the sector following the pandemic and that they can operate in the new hangar that is planned at the airport. This is a huge block under construction with the capacity to house two Airbus A-380s, one of the world’s largest commercial aircraft.
“The prospects are good, indeed,” says Sáez about the future of a company that started out in Teruel with aircraft recycling, one of the operations they perform and which now accounts for “less than 15%” of their work. Not because we have reduced the recycling activity,” he says, “but because we have increased so much in the areas of parking, maintenance and commissioning that the other has become a much smaller area”.
Tarmac’s origins date back to 2007, when it was born as a project of the Airbus group with the aim of making aircraft recycling environmentally friendly. In that year, the company opened its headquarters in Tarbes (France). Six years later it was installed in Teruel, a location that meets the fundamental requirements for the tasks they carry out.
“There is a good climate; the most important thing is that it is far from a saline environment and also far from a sandy desert area, conditions that are not favorable for aircraft maintenance,” explains Sáez.
The Teruel infrastructure also offers “a large surface area, with a very large growth potential”. In addition, they have found a “receptive and very cooperative” attitude from the aerodrome consortium, formed by the Government of Aragon and the Teruel City Council. “They have been very proactive from the very beginning, helping throughout the development of the project,” said the company’s manager.
Parking, maintenance and recycling
It is in this environment where Tamac deploys the three main tasks to which it is dedicated: parking, recycling and maintenance and commissioning of the aircraft. Regarding the first of these, Sáez points out that it is not just a matter of leaving the aircraft stationary and forgetting about it, on the contrary: “It is necessary to carry out a prior preservation in a hangar, where all the landing gear, flight controls, engine oil change, desiccant, covering all the holes of the static pitots, all the windows… it is a very important job”. In fact, these operations can involve “more than 2,000 hours of work” on machines like the A-380.
Tasks that do not stop there, but also manifest themselves in other periodic weekly, biweekly, monthly, quarterly and semiannual ones. “It is quite important maintenance to maintain what is called airworthiness, which is to preserve, to put it briefly, the safety of the aircraft when it is put into service,” he summarizes.
When it comes to putting the aircraft back into service, Tarmac’s professionals have to carry out tasks that can involve “between 1,000 and 2,500 hours” of work for each aircraft.
With the company’s third focal point, recycling, the company’s experts manage to recover “more than 92% of the aircraft’s weight”, including metals for industrial use such as steel, aluminum and titanium. Before that, they attend to a list of materials that can be salvaged, i.e. “high-value parts” such as landing gear, engines or flight controls, which can be used as spare parts for other aircraft or sold.
Up to 125 during the pandemic
Tarmac’s particular role in the aviation industry made this company and the Teruel airport important players during the pandemic because, given the cessation of aviation activity that came with the disease, aircraft needed a place to stay on the ground. “Before Covid, four years ago, we had 54 aircraft and, just before its arrival, there were 80,” Sáez says. During the pandemic period, the company’s facilities accommodated up to 125 aircraft.
In fact, during the past year Tarmac experienced “a strong reactivation of all those aircraft that came here”, so that maintenance and overhaul activity “has been incredibly high”. “It has meant an enormous effort by the entire organization to provide this service because the reactivation has been very noticeable,” the director emphasizes.
In the new scenario, and with the growth that the company foresees, qualified personnel is a fundamental aspect. In fact, specific licenses and accreditations are required for these tasks, even for certain aircraft models or engines. This ‘type’ training is carried out by Tarmac as an agent authorized by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), once the professionals who have studied at vocational training centers such as Segundo de Chomón in Teruel have arrived.
The company collaborates with this school, where it has instructors, and with other training centers in Aragon and outside the region. In this field, the initiative to establish the Aerospace Engineering degree at the Teruel campus of the University of Zaragoza is “very interesting” for the firm. “We are delighted to work with all the university and vocational training centers in Aragon in order to promote the training of the local talent pool so that they can then have their natural work destination at Tarmac,” he summarizes.
The company’s near future also involves the new airport hangar, which is currently under construction and for which the company will bid to take over its management. “We will certainly apply, we are interested in the operation of this hangar, it is a possibility that will give us greater capacity to offer our services,” Sáez emphasizes about this gigantic space.
As an example of its size, it is enough to compare it with the current hangar, which has the capacity to hold a Boeing 747, an aircraft with a wingspan of up to 70 meters. The new space can accommodate two Airbus A380s, with a wingspan of 80 meters.