Thailand’s plans for its next next industrial evolution have received a resounding kick-start with national carrier Thai Airways International (Thai) and Airbus on Friday signing an agreement to jointly establish a hi-tech aviation maintenance centre at U-Tapao airport in the heart of Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) project.
The Thai-Airbus maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) centre will be the most advanced in the Asia-Pacific region and provide heavy, and line maintenance, and aircraft painting services for all types of widebody aircraft.
In line with the Thailand 4.0 policy the Thailand MRO centre will utilise the latest in digital technologies for aircraft inspection and maintenance, with vital technology and skills transfer taking place at the EECs aviation training and certification centre.
Last December it was reported that the Thailand MRO centre would cost about Bt11 billion (about $334.346 mln), Bt7 billion ($212.766 mln) of which will come from the budget of the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) who operate the airport.
Speaking in Toulouse, France where he witnessed the signing ceremony and toured parts of the Airbus facility, Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said he hoped that the Thailand MRO centre will be operational by 2022.
Located 150 kilometres (90 miles) east of Bangkok, U-Tapao Airport is a major cornerstone of the governments eastern Economic Corridor/ Thailand 4.0 development drive.
Slated to become Thailand’s third major international airport, in the next five years it will be upgraded to handle five million passengers annually. Longer term plans seeing it processing 60 million passengers within 15 years and an additional runway being added.
Plans for a high-speed rail link connecting U-Tapao Airport with Don Mueang International Airport, and Suvarnabhumi International Airport by 2023 are progressing rapidly, with contracts expected to be awarded by year’s end (See: Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC): The Hard Sell Begins)
With a total area of some 1,040 hectares (346 acres) available for development the U-Tapao Airport component of the EEC is where Thailand envisages the hub of the region’s aviation industry being based.
In addition to large suppliers such as Airbus, the EEC ‘Aeropolis plan’ hopes to attract an array of small, medium, and large aerospace support industries resulting in the creation of an aerospace ‘community’ (See: U-Tapao International Airport’s Key Role in Thailand’s EEC Success (HD video))
In addition to complementing other members of the Aeropolis, Thailand hopes to see the skills and knowledge of those working at the Thailand MRO centre pass through to bolster the capacity of neighbouring states. (See: Self-Sufficient, Sustainable, Vital: Thailand’s Vision for PPP-Driven CLMVT (video))
Details of the partnership arrangement between Thai and Airbus were not announced, and Airbus did not immediately respond to inquiries.
In a media statement Eric Schulz, Airbus chief commercial officer, said since the two companies began their relationship in 1977 Thai had flown every model of Airbus built, and now flies the full widebody family — A330, A350, and A380.
Proclaiming that the establishment of the Thailand MRO centre will ‘contribute to the success of Thailand’s new eastern economic zone’, Guillaume Faury, president of Airbus Commercial Aircraft, said that it is forecast that the number of wide-body aircraft in the Asia-Pacific will triple over the next 20 years.
Airbus told AEC News Today in late 2016 that there was more than 3,000 Airbus aircraft in service with more than 100 airlines across all ten Asean member countries at the time, with an additional 2,300 on order.
As of late 2016 the company said there was 2,200 A320s in service throughout the Asia-Pacific region with 678 on order. Thirty-six Asean airlines operated 580 of the larger Airbus A330/A340 family, it said (See: Never Seen Before: Airbus’ Big Day Out).
Feature photo Airbus
- Deal sealed in France for U-tapao Airbus hub (Bangkok Post)
- Airbus, Thai Airways to set up aircraft maintenance hub in Thailand (Reuters)
- Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor: Why Thailand? (video) (AEC News Today)
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