ATA maintenance flying out of Indianapolis

July 2, 2007

ATA Airlines plans to discontinue line maintenance in Indianapolis by Nov. 1 and appears ready to deactivate its Indianapolis maintenance operations entirely.

The discontinuation of line maintenance-which involves quick, overnight-type aircraft work rather than overhauls-underscores the increasing irrelevance of Indianapolis to the locally based airline.

Once the busiest carrier at Indianapolis International Airport, ATA ended scheduled airline service here in January 2006.

The company later this year plans to acquire Atlanta-based World Air Holdings, and local economic development officials have been nervous that ATA will move its headquarters there.

IBJ noted April 23 that ATA CEO Subodh Karnik, just prior to joining ATA, worked in Atlanta as a Delta Air Lines executive. He said previously that the company has no plans to relocate the headquarters.

ATA employs 685 here, including about 50 mechanics. Four years ago, it had 2,300 on staff at the local headquarters and maintenance base.

Latvian immigrant George Mikelsons founded the company in Indianapolis in the 1970s. He left the company amid bankruptcy proceedings. In 2003, the year before ATA filed Chapter 11, it had more than 390 mechanics.

Last month, ATA handed out furlough notices to 20 mechanics in Indianapolis as part of a relocation of Boeing 757 maintenance to the West Coast, according to the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association.

The union's Web site said 15 new openings would be available in Dallas, one in Los Angeles and one at Chicago's Midway Airport.

ATA spokeswoman Maya Wagle declined to say if ATA would deactivate the Indianapolis repair base entirely. But she noted that ATA no longer flies scheduled service from Indianapolis and that the company is under pressure to cut costs following bankruptcy.

The company also is expected to meet the financial objectives of its new owner, New York-based investment firm Matlin Patterson, which acquired ATA in 2005 for more than $90 million.

"We would prefer not to make any changes if we didn't have to," Wagle said.

Indianapolis International Airport's other major aircraft repair bases are operated by Indianapolis-based Republic Airways, by Chicago-based aircraft repair firm AAR and by Federal Express.

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