Singapore is synonymous with MRO in the AsiaPacific region, but the fastpaced growth of airlines there is drawing local and global companies to establish aftermarket support operations in Indonesia and Malaysia as well.
Lion Air plans to open four hangars on Batam, an Indonesian island south of Singapore to accommodate the hundreds of aircraft it has on order.
Malaysian entrepreneur Syed Budriz founded Kuala Lumpur International Airport-based Sepang Aircraft Engineering (SAE) in 2007 to provide a local MRO option for AirAsia. “As AirAsia got bigger, EADS came in and invested 40% in 2010,” says JeanLuc Coma, acting CEO for the company. Today, SAE completes about 85% of AirAsia’s maintenance checks.
Singaporebased Tigerair sent a few Airbus A320s to SAE for airframe C checks and component work, which proved to be a good test case because in December the lowcost carrier awarded SAE 35 more C checks. The first will arrive in April. Tigerair operates 50 A320s, which have an average age of less than three years.
In November, SAE broke ground on a new hangar that it expects to open by the end of this year. It will provide the extra space it needs to accommodate additional customers and facilitate its new role as the Airbus Malaysia Customer Service Center. “We anticipate more C checks for A320s and ATR42/72s from this region in 2014 and hope for a 10% growth rate,” says Coma. SAE handles five or six A320 and ATR checks daily, with three to four coming from AirAsia.
On the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, SR Technics is setting up a component repair facility. The Zurichbased MRO, a unit of Mubadala Aerospace, needed a facility in the region to support its Integrated Component Services (ICS) customers. It considered Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia, and by January 2013 had started negotiating for facility space near Kuala Lumpur, according to Heinz Freimann, general manager of SR Technics Malaysia.
In addition to this facility, which will officially opened in March, SR Technics has also formed a partnership with Garuda Maintenance Facility AeroAsia (GMF) to create a component support workshop in Jakarta as part of an ICS agreement for Garuda Indonesia’s Airbus A330s and Boeing 737NGs. SR Technics will work with GMF to develop its existing inhouse repair capabilities, which in turn gives the MRO incountry support in Indonesia to reduce turnaround times.
Sivadass Krishnan, SR Technics Malaysia’s first employee and human resources manager, wants 90% of the staff at the component repair facility to be local. Each will undergo six to nine months of training, with a special emphasis on hand skills. The first wave of 21 technicians received theoretical and practice core skills training at D’Aviation Solutions near Kuala Lumpur during JuneAugust 2013, and then went to Zurich for additional onthejob process and parts training. They then returned to Malaysia to prepare test benches, organize material in the warehouse and prepare for the production line rampup, including reassembling parts sent from Zurich.
The second wave, 45 of whom were mostly recruited from local technical schools and universities, started training between September and November. Eight of this group also will fly to Zurich for “onthejob training for specific part numbers,” says Freimann. They might have less experience, “but we’ll show them that they can move up,” says Joel Lin, head of maintenance operations at SR Technics Malaysia.
SR Technics expects to receive Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation/EASA audit approval any day, with the first components to undergo repair being hydraulic pumps, ballscrew actuators, power drive units and audio control panels. By the end of this year, the company expects to have 1,200 product capabilities. The MRO’s Swiss operation covers 3,500.
While having a local presence should speed turnaround times, it is important that SR Technics Malaysia “brings Swiss quality and the same standards here from the beginning, including workmanship. Customers shouldn’t see a difference” between components repaired in Zurich or Kuala Lumpur, says Freimann. “We’re like a startup within an established company. Without the group, we wouldn’t have chosen SAP, but we must comply with group standards.”