The government expects to announce bidding terms for an aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) hub worth 11 billion baht in October and to name the winning bidder and sign the contract in the first quarter of next year.
Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary-general of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Office, said the MRO hub at U-tapao airport is meant to support the flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and aviation flows throughout Asia.
The MRO hub is the second infrastructure project under the corridor after the government announced bidding terms for the high-speed railway linking Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-tapao airports. The railway project is worth 224.5 billion baht.
The government is preparing a 500-rai plot of land for the MRO hub, with 200 rai of the total is reserved for Thai Airways and Airbus, which signed a memorandum of understanding. Air Asia is also interested in investing in the hub at U-tapao and has requested 60 rai.
Authorities held their first "market sounding" to gauge interst and answer questions from businesses about the U-tapao project, with 200 companies taking part including GMR Group Airport, Enterprise Singapore, PTT Group, CP Group and King Power.
A submission of questionnaires will take place on June 22, and a second market sounding will occur in September before the bidding terms are formally announced.
Navy chief Naris Pratoomsuwan said the capacity of U-tapao would be upgraded to handle huge volumes of passengers, freight and aircraft.
The upgrade includes airport expansion with the construction of a second runway and taxiway, as well as a third terminal and development of aviation-related industries, including MRO facilities, an aviation training centre, a cargo village and a commercial precinct.
"U-tapao airport is located on 6,500 rai and is being upgraded to serve as the third main commercial airport outside Bangkok," Adm Naris said. "This project is expected to handle 15 million passengers in the next five years, 30 million in the next 15 years and 60 million in the next 20 years."
Luechai Sri-Eamgool, director of the U-tapao Airport Authority, said the government would invest in a second runway of 3,500 metres in length, to begin work in 2019 and finish in the next five years.
The new runway will support the largest passenger aircraft lincluding the Airbus A380, Rear Adm Luechai said.