French investors in the aeronautical industry have expressed confidence in Thailand’s push to become a regional hub for aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO). In June 2018, European aircraft manufacturer Airbus and Thai Airways International (THAI) have launched a new joint venture to establish a MRO facility at U-Tapao International Airport.
Airbus, which first entered the market in Thailand 40 years ago, believes that the MRO sector offer enormous potential for Thailand’s aerospace business in the coming years. The joint venture is part of Thailand government’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) strategy under the country’s 4.0 policy to develop innovative technology-based manufacturing and services in the country. According to Sihasak Phuangketkeow, a former Thai ambassador to France, the MRO centre is a major step forward for Thailand in the new-growth S-curve industries and its grand Thailand 4.0 strategy.
The MRO facility will be the most extensive in the Asia Pacific region, supported by Thailand’s strong automobile and electronics manufacturing base. Airbus and THAI are still working on the final details of the deal to address MRO requirements. When fully operational, the MRO centre will offer heavy maintenance and line services for all widebody aircraft types. The facility will also feature the latest digital technology to analyse aircraft maintenance data, specialised repair shops for composite structures and a maintenance training centre offering courses for technical personnel from Thailand and overseas. With airlines expanding their fleets, including fast growing budget airlines such as AirAsia, many aircrafts would require maintenance and overhaul in the next few years.
Cedric Post, the French Aerospace Industry Association’s deputy director for European and international affairs said that MRO will be a key piece of the aeronautics industry in ASEAN. Furthermore, Airbus and Thailand’s Civil Aviation Training Centre (CATC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in January to work on projects to develop and implement maintenance training and pilot training courses in the country. This would support the development of the country’s aviation industry by helping to ensure a steady supply of pilots, engineers and mechanics for Thailand’s airlines and MRO centres.
Airbus has already begun working with CATC on basic maintenance training courses which could be expanded to additional maintenance and flight training courses for pilots. “The main challenge is to face the growth and train all required technicians and engineers. Airbus is confident that CATC, with Airbus assistance and cooperation, is able to address this challenge,” said Joost van der Heijden, Airbus head of marketing for Asia and North America.
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