South East Wales

British Airways considering repair base at St Athan

British Airways is considering expanding its maintenance operation in Wales with a new base at St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan.

BBC Wales understands it is one of a number of options on the table as it prepares to cope with more work next year.

BA already employs more than 1,000 people at its maintenance base at Cardiff Airport.

The company said no decision had yet been taken.

But it confirmed that due to the amount of work taking place in Cardiff next year, increasing capacity was being explored.

"We are extremely proud of our engineering operations in South Wales, which employ more than 1,000 people locally," said a BA spokesperson.

"Due to the amount of work scheduled to take place at our heavy maintenance base in Cardiff next year, we are exploring a number of options to increase capacity."

Thousands of RAF aircraft engineers used to work at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) base St Athan.

There is still some remaining repair and maintenance work carried out on RAF VC10 aircraft but that is due to come to an end in February, marking the end of an era for the base.

Options

There are three main elements to St Athan currently:

  • A technical training school for RAF mechanics
  • A special forces support group
  • Maintenance work on VC10s

If a move by BA goes ahead, it will provide a much-needed boost to the St Athan site after a decade of uncertainty and failed attempts to secure skilled jobs.

In 2009, the National Audit Office and the Wales Audit Office criticised both the MoD and Welsh authorities after finding an aviation repair project there ended up costing the taxpayer £113m and failed to deliver thousands of jobs.

The Red Dragon project was started in 2000, aimed at modernising ageing MoD facilities at St Athan along with the construction of a £77m super hangar for fast jet repair.

Then in October last year, a £14bn defence training academy which would have created 2,000 jobs at St Athan was scrapped as part of 8% cuts by the UK government to the defence budget.

First Minister Carwyn Jones called it a "betrayal of the people of Wales".

But David Cameron said other options would be discussed, telling MPs: "This is not the end of the road for training at St Athan."

Some better news came in July when the UK government revealed more servicemen and women would be stationed at St Athan.

St Athan's history as an aircraft maintenance base dates back to 1938.

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