THAI, Airbus strike investment deal

THAI, Airbus strike investment deal

U-Tapao airport eyed as maintenance centre

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Airbus Commercial Aircraft president and chief operating officer Fabrice Bregier pose for a picture with a model Thai Airways plane during their meeting at Government House Wednesday. (Photo Courtesy Government House)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Airbus Commercial Aircraft president and chief operating officer Fabrice Bregier pose for a picture with a model Thai Airways plane during their meeting at Government House Wednesday. (Photo Courtesy Government House)

The government's ambitious plan to make Thailand a fully fledged aviation hub in the Asia Pacific has received a boost following a cooperation agreement inked Wednesday by national flag carrier Thai Airways International (THAI) and Airbus.

The agreement stipulates the need to study the development of a major new maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility or TG MRO Complex Development, at U-Tapao International Airport worth about 20 billion baht as an aircraft maintenance centre for the Asia-Pacific region.

Airbus's decision to choose to jointly invest in Thailand means a lot for the country as it reflects how much confidence the European aircraft manufacturer has in Thailand's capacity, said Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak who presided over the contract-signing ceremony Wednesday at THAI headquarters.

"Many may have seen [an ambition to turn Thailand into] a regional aviation hub in Asia and the Pacific as only a dream in the past. But now that Airbus has decided to choose Thailand as an aircraft maintenance and repair centre and THAI as a partner, this clearly shows Thailand is definitely a real hub in this region," he said.

The THAI-Airbus project is part of the Thai government's ambition to make Thailand a regional centre for aviation, which the government has been planning and working on for a long time, he said.

It is believed the MRO centre will help generate substantial income, he said, adding that he believed Airbus decided to jointly invest in this project because it had found in its own research that Thailand is suitable in terms of both geographical location and the direction of the country's development which supports and promises a bright future for the aviation business.

"The government will next fully support the industry by spurring investment through various projects, especially the ones under the Transport Ministry's care that are expected to become concrete and have clear details in one to two years so that Thailand is able to move forward in the next few years," he said.

He said he was informed by Airbus that about 40% of the aircraft it produces are now in Asia and these aircraft will definitely require maintenance and repair services.

According to government sources, the project will cover a 2,000-rai area at U-Tapao airport with estimated investment of about 20 billion baht.

Flt Lt Montree Jumrieng, executive vice president for corporate strategy and sustainable development of THAI, said the U-Tapao centre will be capable of servicing various types of aircraft, equipped with the newest digital technology used to analyse aircraft maintenance information and other advanced aircraft testing technology, he said.

The centre will also have smart hangers and a training facility for aircraft maintenance technicians that meet international standards, he said.

"Airbus aims to make the U-Tapao centre capable of receiving up to 12 aircraft at a time, large and small, a volume seen as worth investing in. It is also eyeing expanding its aircraft parts manufacturing base to U-Tapao as well," he said.

The study regarding the agreement for the joint investment between THAI and Airbus should be completed by the end of this year and the results are expected to be submitted for approval to the State Enterprise Policy Office and other concerned bodies in January next year, said THAI acting president Usanee Sangsingkeo.

"At this point, it will become a form of joint investment between the government and Airbus ... More information about the sources of money to fund this project will be known when the results of the study are made available," she said.

According to Airbus chief operating officer Fabrice Bregier, a growing Asia is also an important source of industrial partnership for his aerospace company with about 600 suppliers in 15 countries from this region.

"Our business is moving east," he reaffirmed at the CEO Forum on "Airbus vision for Aviation in the Region and Thailand's Role" at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Wednesday.

Mr Bregier added that Asia is the most important market with some 3,000 aircraft flying with airlines in the region and another 2,000 which have already been ordered for future delivery.

"I can assure you that we will continue to be a major force in developing your country's aviation sector and economy for many years to come," Mr Bregier said.

"The memorandum of understanding for the MRO will enable Thailand to develop technology for aircraft for all of Asia and enhance human resources in the sector," he said, calling the fresh aviation pact a "revolution".

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