Bill Heath works on an air conditioning unit EE030208_MM06_09
IN the cavernous bays of the New Walker Hangar at Exeter International Airport, Flybe engineers and mechanics work around the clock, servicing a range of aircraft.
As well as keeping the airline's own 71-strong fleet of Embraer 195 and Bombardier Q400 planes airworthy, the 550 Exeter-based workers are increasingly carrying out servicing work for other airlines.
John Palmer, Flybe's director of aircraft operations, said: "Sixty to 75 per cent of the work we do here is for other airlines in Europe. Anything you can do to an aeroplane, we can do it here."
At any given time, there are usually eight aircraft being worked on 24 hours a day at the state-of-the-art Exeter hangar, every day except Christmas Day.
This provides a significant source of revenue for Flybe.
Airlines like Lufthansa pay Flybe around £250,000 for a major service on one of their aircraft, which takes 20 days and needs to be done every 18 months to two years.
Flybe's aviation services section has an annual turnover of £50m and last year carried out 750,000 man hours of work. That figure is expected to reach one million man hours as Flybe takes on more work.
To provide the skilled workers needed to make this expansion possible, Flybe has recently launched an innovative apprenticeship scheme in association with Exeter College.
The airline also plans to open a training academy in 2010.