By KINGSLEY WIJAYASINHA
Usanee Sangsingkeo, acting president of Thai Airways International, third from right, exchanges the contract with Jean-Francois Laval, third from left, Airbus' executive vice president, for future business cooperation between THAI and Airbus.
THAI AIRWAYS International (THAI) and aircraft maker Airbus have signed a cooperation agreement to assess maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) business opportunities for the Asia-Pacific region at U-Tapao Rayong-Pattaya International Airport.
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who chaired the signing ceremony yesterday, said Thailand aimed to establish an aviation centre in the near future in order to cater to the expected growth in the tourism sector.
“There will be more than the current 34-35 million visitors to Thailand each year and we believe that building the aviation hub at U-Tapao is beneficial,” he said, adding that with studies having been carried out, the government wants concrete projects to start as soon as possible.
He said that while the studies had been carried out with good results, there needs to be a commitment by both sides of proposed joint ventures to kick-start the projects.
“We are not hoping for just one or two airlines but many more and we want the first project to start as soon as possible,” he said.
THAI acting president Usanee Sangsingkeo and Airbus executive vice president Jean-Francois Laval represented each side in the agreement signing. The U-Tapao Airport Development Project is one of several important development projects in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), Usanee said.
Yesterday’s ceremony follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in March last year between both companies. The Project Feasibility and Appraisal Report has been submitted to related state agencies for consideration, and will reach the EEC Policy Committee chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, for further consideration before approval.
Laval said the project would offer attractive business opportunities for aviation partner companies and suppliers. “Today’s announcement also represents a strategic development for Thailand’s plan to strengthen its presence in the aerospace industry,” Laval said.
THAI’s vice president, Flying Officer Ronnachai Wongchaoum, said there are several elements to the agreement.
The first is to set a framework for discussion and analysis for setting up MRO facilities at U-Tapao, including establishing a training centre, aircraft composite repair shop, adopting new technologies for so-called smart hanger operations, setting up a store and logistics centre, supporting design and construction of buildings in the MRO campus and setting up a back shop to support line maintenance operations.
THAI and Airbus will also set up a joint committee to assess and decide on each business opportunity identified in the cooperation agreement. If any of the activities are found to be mutually beneficial, the two parties may enter a joint venture agreement for each, beginning |with the MRO activity,” Ronnachai said.
It is expected that the fleets operated by carriers in the Asia-Pacific region will double over the next 20 years, from around 6,100 to 17,000 aircraft, according to Airbus.
Meanwhile, the value of maintenance and overhaul services in the region will reach US$664 billion over the next decade, the aircraft manufactuer said.