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Dublin Aerospace to proceed with its €15m expansion

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Critical: Conor McCarthy said the industry needs to get flying again

Critical: Conor McCarthy said the industry needs to get flying again

Critical: Conor McCarthy said the industry needs to get flying again

Aircraft maintenance firm Dublin Aerospace is proceeding with a €15m investment in a new operation at Ashbourne in Co Meath despite predictions that global air travel will be in a slump for years to come.

The new facility, which will eventually employ about 150 people, will be used to perform maintenance on landing gear. The project is backed by Enterprise Ireland.

"We're either dead in the long run or we thrive in the long run," Dublin Aerospace founder and executive chairman Conor McCarthy told the Irish Independent.

"We find ourselves in an industry-leading position," he said. "We know we've got the best costs in the world, the best engineers, so it's an area we think we can develop. If we choose to ignore it, we'll end up allowing ourselves to have had an opportunity and squandered it."

Dublin Aerospace's main operational base is at Dublin Airport, where during its peak work period during the winter it employs up to 450 people. About 100 of those are contractors. Its customers include airlines from all over the world.

Mr McCarthy said that the company has furloughed close to 100 staff members, but is rotating people in and out of work in order to ensure they keep up to speed with their skills and maintain a connection with the workplace.

Staff have also agreed to defer wage increases that were due.

Dublin Aerospace had originally intended to invest about €10m in the Ashbourne facility, including the acquisition cost and about €6.5m on fit-out. Mr McCarthy said the investment has increased after Dublin Aerospace secured more value for money with additional works at the facility.

"We're viewing the current crisis as something that we need to weather, but something that we'll get out of," said Mr McCarthy. "The alternative is that we shut up shop now, take the cash out of the bank and go away."

Mr McCarthy is a member of the government-established aviation taskforce that on Tuesday recommended the removal from July 1 of the 14-day quarantine period for inbound passengers.

"I'm not really sure that the Irish public understand or appreciate how important aviation is to Ireland," he said.

He warned that the situation is now "absolutely critical" for the aviation sector and that even politicians don't grasp the hugely challenging position airlines are in.

"They seem to think that because Ryanair is so strong, and Aer Lingus is such a piece of the furniture, that they're not in trouble," said Mr McCarthy. "That's wrong. They're using the strength they've had just to survive at the moment. That can't last for very long. There's a limit to everything."

He said that while the initial and interim report of the taskforce is about restarting aviation, the final report will look at the "huge damage" that has been inflicted.

"Aviation is probably the industry worldwide where Ireland is a natural leader," he said. "For the final report the group are going to be looking at how do you repair the damage that's been done to balance sheets in the industry across all players in a way that is fair, equitable and affordable, but that helps them get back to their leading positions. Otherwise, they could find themselves losing that position, never to regain it again."

Mr McCarthy said about 250,000 tourism and hospitality jobs in Ireland are reliant on travel returning.

Irish Independent