The major challenges of providing maintenance in China are the sheer pace of the country’s growth and the huge size of China and thus the geographical dispersion of airlines, according to Thales MRO VP Eric Huber.
Thales has dealt with these challenges by establishing an MRO facility in Beijing with about 60 people, almost exclusively Chinese nationals, and a headcount that is growing about 10% annually. All repair activities are done in-country, and Thales must just send spares and LRUs from France.
Huber tries to rotate his Chinese maintenance staff across his global locations, in France, the U.S. and Singapore. Recruiting new Chinese mechanics can tap a huge population and large electronics sector, but Huber says competition is fierce among aviation companies for the best candidates.
Most avionics support in China now is transaction based, but Huber would like to move toward “more stable” relationships, “not full power-by-hour, but with preferential treatment on both sides.” That might mean some volume guaranteed to the provider and some price protection for the airline.
His other plans include increasing his Beijing MRO staff as Chinese demand grows and meeting Chinese airlines’ demand for higher performance levels and availability and reduced turnaround times. “We will probably move to more comprehensive, premium solutions, and maybe more proximity to airlines.” That could mean adding staff and offices in Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou. He would like to offer one- and three-day turnaround times.