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Airshow China Showcases Country's MRO Potential

Last week’s Airshow China in Zhuhai saw a number of multi-million dollar MRO announcements made by the region’s providers and airlines, with the deals demonstrating China’s rapid growth as an aftermarket hub.

While the airshows at Farnborough and Paris still garner wider attention, the profile of events like the bi-annual Zhuhai show has continuously grown in the 20 years since its debut. Its increasing prominence has served as a platform to showcase large deals between MRO specialists and airline customers.

Among the most prominent activity centered on Guangzhou Aircraft Maintenance and Engineering (GAMECO), one of China’s largest aftermarket companies, which penned aftermarket contracts with two Chinese cargo airlines. The first was with carrier Uni-Top Airlines for its fleet of A300s, covering base maintenance, engineering service, material support and component repair on the freighter aircraft.

In addition to this, GAMECO also signed a deal to cover the 757-200F fleet of China Air Cargo, the Guangzhou-based airline looking to further grow in China’s booming cargo market. Also continuing the cargo trend was Beijing-headquartered MRO Ameco, which penned a ten-year contract with freight carrier SF Airlines for MRO services on 40 Rolls-Royce RB211 engines Ameco powering its 757 fleet.

For some of the big international engine OEMs, Airshow China also produced sizeable contract wins. GE Aviation, combined with the CFM International engine joint venture it shares with Safran Aircraft Engines, amassed more than $3bn in orders and commitments at the show. 

These included a continuation of the next-gen engine influx for narrowbodies and the growth of widebody engine options. Chinese lessor CDB Leasing opted for LEAP-1A engines, while Xiamen Airlines and China Southern committed to GEnx-1B engines for their growing 787 fleet. Xiamen’s order also included an expanded TrueChoice maintenance contract with GE to the tune of $630m for the GEnx-1B, with coverage for new and used material and advance repairs.

With training provision becoming an ever-growing concern for aftermarket providers, particularly in countries like China, CFM International also confirmed plans to start offering LEAP-1C line maintenance training at its engine maintenance and training Center in Guanghan City. The training version of the engine, used as part of the engine certification test program, will be delivered to the facility in 2017.

Despite the agreements showcasing China’s burgeoning MRO potential, the business won by the likes of GAMECO, GE and CFM could well be the tip of the iceberg in terms of long-term MRO opportunities. This emanates from the number of aircraft flooding into China as passenger travel grows at a rate of more than six per cent annually. 

At Zhuhai, Airbus said demand for commercial aircraft over the next 20 years would reach 5,970 jets, a number comprised of 1,740 widebodies. Meanwhile, Aviation Week’s 2017 Engine Forecast predicts it will be the LEAP engine family that tops the engine influx into China up until 2026, with 3,740 units anticipated.

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