New maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities are opening their doors in China and India while established service hubs grow in the Pacific Rim, fed by record sales and pushed by airframe manufacturers on a mission to expand their authorized service networks.
“We’re training a new generation of people,” says Gerry Goguen senior vice president of customer support for Dassault Falcon. “Not only with the technical skills, but also to rapidly develop the soft sills, the management skills, to know how to efficiently and effectively dispatch these airplanes and operate them so their owners have a delightful experience.”
The growth comes ahead of a surge in maintenance demand since business jets in Asia are still new, he points out. “In four to seven years, certainly it will increase.” Looking back 15 years, Goguen remembers when finding a part or a mechanic in most of Asia was a nightmare. “This was like the early dawn of aviation. There were very few local people who knew how to open the main entrance door,” he says. Today, “If they’re not well organized, they know they’re not well organized, and that’s wonderful”.
The most significant recent growth is at the cities where Asian jet owners have long flown for service: Hong Kong and Singapore. Metrojet’s maintenance staff are growing by 50 as they expand into a new hangar at the Hong Kong Business Aviation Centre. “What this means for customers based in the region is that their aircraft no longer needs to be ferried to a great distance at great expenses for heavy checks and maintenance,” says COO and executive director Chris Buchholz. Metrojet’s management of a $ 9 million inventory of Gulfstream parts gives that manufacturer an edge as it looks to expand. In Singapore ExecuJet opened its first Asian base Feb. 18 at the bursting Seletar Aerospace Park. Their 2,800m2 hangar enables comprehensive operational and maintenance support to several regional Gulfstream and Bombardier aircraft and is just a start in the region. “We see great opportunities in India and China especially,” says Gerrit Basson, managing director.
Three days later Singapore Technologies Aerospace Ltd (ST Aerospace) unveiled a new 4,860 m2 hangar in Seletar, with a price tag of $ 17.3 million. “This investment in Singapore also attests to the competitiveness of Singapore in aviation maintenance support and our confidence in the Seletar Aerospace Park,” says Tay Kok Khiang, president of ST Aerospace.
Hawker Pacific’s second facility at Seletar could begin operations in 2010 to expand its MRO service and those of its new FBO there. The 5 acre, $ 15 million expansion boosts the presence begun by the Australian company in 2000.
Pratt & Whitney Canada also recently opened a new parts distribution centre in Singapore, doubling the availability of parts and reducing by more than half the delivery time to customers. The centre is located in the Loyang Industrial Estate next to Singapore’s Changi Airport.
At Seletar, “Jet Aviation is planning to build a hangar almost double the size of the existing one of 2,730m2, which can simultaneously house two BBJ´s as well as a number of smaller aircraft,” says Jet Aviation senior of marketing and communications Heinz Aebi, “Plans are to have the hangar operational in 2010.
“Jet Aviation would like to expand its service network in Asia in the very near future and is focusing on China where the company is planning to operate a FBO and line maintenance operation in cooperation with a local partner. In addition, Jet Aviation also will expand its aircraft management and charter operation centre in Hong Kong within the next few years,” he adds.
Since Jet Aviation opened there in 1995, Seletar has grown to become a top service and charter hub. It’s a feat Subang Skypark means to emulate at Subang Airport in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. As infrastructure there is upgraded a new FBO is set to open this month, ahead MRO facilities, hotels and entertainment complexes. Swiss-based charter operator VistaJet will be the first tenant.
Cirrus has its sights on Malaysia, says vice president of sales John Bingham. “In Malaysia we will have a full service centre that will be totally capable of servicing the large number of planes that are going to this important new market for us. There will be sales, service and training in the Malaysian facility,” he says. The Duluth, Minnesota manufacturer of high performance piston singles has seven service centres across Asia. “Our plan is to double our Service centres across the region over the coming months,” he states.
Malaysia is on Cessna’s list, says spokesperson Pia Bergqvist, adding to their Jet Aviation authorized service centres in Japan and Singapore. “We are in the process of adding facilities in Malaysia, India, China and possibly one in Hong Kong,” she says. “No specific dates have been established, but we are striving to have at least two or three facilities in place by the end of the second quarter and would like to have all in place by year end,” she adds. “Our goal is to stock parts to support the planes we know are based near the maintenance facilities.”
The poor infrastructure in China and India is not limited to the skies, points out Ed Smith, senior vice president of international affairs for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. The vast expanses of those nations make aircraft a valuable tool. “They’re growing fast from a small base, and we see enormous upside potential,” he says. “If you take Asia as a whole,” he continues, business jet sales have grown 7 percent in the last year, compared to 5 percent for Latin America and three percent for Europe. “This year was a record year again for GA deliveries, shipments and billings, and last year was also a record year.”
Service networks are budding. ST Aerospace and China Eastern Airlines formed a joint venture to create Shanghai Technologies Aerospace Company Limited (STARCO), which is constructing a new hangar complex at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport to expand its MRO offerings. That could open in mid 2009.
An FBO in Shenzen is but the first location of BAAsia. The management company is working to build an FBO network across china. BAAsia intends to break ground for a new FBO in Beijing by winter, and Shanghai is next on its list. In September Hawker Pacific plans to open its first facility in Shanghai, China, at Hongqiao International Airport. The 2,800 m2 FBO and maintenance facility are a big step as they look to expand further into mainland Asia. Shangai will be home to a new Dassault Falcon spares distribution centre, with an inventory worth $ 2.2 million and an opening planned by the end of this month. A second spares centre could open in May in Mumbai, India, with $ 1.5 million worth of parts. Once in place, Dassault Falcon will have approximately $ 8 million U.S. of Falcon spares in the Asia-Pacific region - nearly double the inventory in region from one year ago. Shanghai and Mumbai join a regional distribution centre in Singapore.
Hawker Beechcraft has seven authorized service centres in Asia, stretching in an arc from northern Japan through Taiwan and China’s Hainan island. “We will be adding three additional authorized service centres in the Asian region in the next 18 months,” says spokesperson Andrew Broom, but he cannot say where they will be. On Feb. 28 Hawker Beechcraft opened a new authorized service centre at the Indira Handi International Airport in Dehli, India. Travel conglomerate InterGlobe General Aviation Limited expanded into service and sales last June. It’s now the region’s authorized dealer and intends to establish new service centres across India as it boosts sales. “Hawker Beechcraft enjoys a 56 percent market share of all turbine aircraft in India and recently announced an order for 20 Hawker jets from a new operator in the region, BJETS,” says Jim Schuster, Hawker Beechcraft chairman and CEO.
That’s a jump on Embraer in the race into India. “Embraer has presently 29 Authorized Service Centre around the world and is working to add additional 14 to the list,” says Siu Ying Yeung, vice President for customer services, Embraer China. “Actions are being taken to have first authorized service centre in China mainland. Presently we have four Embraer authorized service centres in the Asia Pacific region.”
They’re working to have the first MRO in China open this year or, at the latest, in 2009. “It is matter of time to have the fleet build up and create a critical mass to make business sense,” he says.