MRO Japan plans to start operations at Okinawa’s Naha Airport on Jan. 7. An official grand opening ceremony will be held on Jan. 29, explains Tadaaki Nobusue, head of sales and marketing for the young Japanese maintenance company.
The government of the Okinawa prefecture constructed a hangar with three narrowbody bays and one widebody bay at Naha at the end of October. MRO Japan has been moving staff and equipment from Osaka to Naha since then.
“We focus on narrowbody aircraft maintenance with painting,” Nobusue says. Since starting up in 2015, MRO Japan in Osaka has done more than 300 base maintenance events for Airbus A320-family aircraft, Boeing 737s and Bombardier Q400s. Heavy check customers include parent All Nippon Airways (ANA), Vanilla Air, Peach Aviation, Star Flyer and Solaseed. The company plans to add the Boeing 787 and the Mitsubishi Regional Jet to its capabilities, becoming MRJ’s preferred provider in Asia.
The MRO also has painted the Pokemon livery for ANA. “We are very proud of our painting,” Nobusue says. MRO Japan does not yet have component repair capability.
The company employs almost 170 mechanics and licensed engineers, and a total employee count of 240. Almost all current employees are seconded from the ANA group, but MRO Japan is now recruiting mainly from the Okinawa prefecture. So far, it has attracted 60 new recruits.
Okinawa should be favorable ground for staffing up. Osaka and other cities in Japan’s main islands are very expensive places to obtain either land or labor, especially near major airports. Okinawa has the youngest and fastest-growing population among all the prefectures of Japan, but has had the lowest employment rate and average income. The island’s economy has been significantly driven by tourism and the presence of the U.S. military, although the latter is controversial and is declining. There have been efforts in recent years to diversify into other sectors.
Once relocated to the more affordable Okinawa, MRO Japan will first apply for EASA Part 145 approval and expects to obtain it around the middle of 2020. The company then will seek customers from outside of Japan.
MRO Japan is also looking into supporting leased aircraft in Japan. Leased aircraft need maintenance at MROs that are approved by either FAA or EASA. “Unfortunately, there is no FAA or EASA 145 repair station in Japan,” Nobusue notes. “This is why the airlines in Japan have to use overseas MROs, especially for return maintenance. I used be in charge of aircraft lease-return maintenance at ANA, and we always did return maintenance at an overseas MRO in China or Singapore and then ferried back the aircraft after the return maintenance to get an export authorization from the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau. It was always a headache. In the near future, MRO Japan could be a maintenance provider for leased aircraft with FAA or EASA.”