Data compiled by Jon Underdown & Andy Webster, ACAS Business Aviation

As Asia's business jet fleets grow, so does demand for maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities, and airframers are rapidly expanding their service networks

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 seeking to expand their authorised service networks.

"We are training a new generation of people," says Gerry Goguen, senior vice-president of customer support for Dassault Falcon. "Not only with technical skills, but also to rapidly develop soft skills, management skills, to know how to efficiently and effectively dispatch these aircraft and operate them so their owners have a delightful experience."

This growth comes ahead of a surge in maintenance demand because business jets in Asia are still new, he says. "In four to seven years, certainly it will increase."

Goguen recalls how, 15 years ago, finding a part or a mechanic in most of Asia was a nightmare. "This was like the early dawn of aviation," he says. "There were very few local people who knew how to open the main entrance door. Today, if they're not well organised, they know they're not well organised, and that's wonderful."

Asian Business aircraft fleet

Recent growth

The most significant recent growth is in cities where Asian jet owners have long flown for service - Hong Kong and Singapore.

Metrojet is increasing its maintenance staff by 50 as it expands 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 a great distance at great expense for heavy checks and maintenance," says chief operating officer 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, although it will not say where.

ExecuJet opened its first Asian base on 18 February at Singapore's burgeoning Seletar Aerospace Park. Its 2,800m2 (30,140ft2) hangar offers 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, ExecuJet managing director.

Three days later, Singapore Technologies Aerospace (ST Aerospace) unveiled a new 4,860m2 hangar in Seletar, with a price tag of $17.3 million. "This investment 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.

Second facility

Hawker Pacific's second facility at Seletar could begin operations in 2010, expanding its MRO service and those of its new fixed-base operation there. The 2Ha (5 acre), $15 million expansion boosts the Australian company's Singapore presence, which began in 2000.

Pratt & Whitney Canada also opened a new parts distribution centre in Singapore recently, doubling the availability of parts and halving the delivery time to customers. The centre is on the Loyang Industrial Estate near Singapore's Changi Airport.

age of fleet

Jet Aviation is planning to build a new hangar at Seletar almost double the size of its existing one of 2,730m2, which can simultaneously house two Boeing Business Jets as well several smaller aircraft, says Heinz Aebi, senior vice-president, marketing and communications.

"Plans are to have the hangar operational in 2010," he says. "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 an FBO and line maintenance operation in co-operation with a local partner. In addition, Jet Aviation will expand its aircraft management and charter operation centre in Hong Kong within the next few years."

Since Jet Aviation opened at Seletar in 1995, the park has grown to become a top service and charter hub - a feat Subang Skypark intends to emulate at Subang Airport in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur. A new FBO is set to open this month, ahead of MRO facilities, hotels and entertainment complexes. Swiss-based charter operator VistaJet will be the first tenant.

Cirrus has set 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 aircraft that are going to this important new market for us," he says. "There will be sales, service and training in the Malaysian facility." The Duluth, Minnesota-based manufacturer of high-performance piston singles already has seven service centres across Asia. "Our plan is to double our service centres across the region over the coming months," Bingham adds.

Malaysia is also on Cessna's list, says spokesperson Pia Bergqvist, adding to the manufacturer's Jet Aviation authorised 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 adds. "No specific dates have been set, 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. Our goal is to stock parts to support the aircraft we know are based near the maintenance facilities."

Sales boom

Poor infrastructure in China and India is not limited to the skies, says 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, he points out. "They're growing fast from a small base, and we see enormous upside potential. If you take Asia as a whole, business jet sales have grown 7% in the last year, compared to 5% for Latin America and 3% for Europe. This year was a record year for general aircraft deliveries, shipments and billings, as was last year."

Service networks are also developing. ST Aerospace and China Eastern Airlines formed a joint venture to create the Shanghai Technologies Aerospace Co (STARCO), which is building a new hangar complex at Shanghai's Pudong Airport to expand its MRO offerings. That could open in mid-2009.

Management company BAAsia is working to build an FBO network across China, and its first location is Shenzen. The company plans to break ground for a new FBO in Beijing by next winter, with Shanghai next on its list.

In September, Hawker Pacific plans to open its first facility in Shanghai, at Hongqiao International Airport. The 2,800m2 FBO and maintenance facility is a big step in the company's plans to expand 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 these facilities are in place, Dassault Falcon will have about $8 million worth of Falcon spares in the Asia-Pacific region - nearly double the inventory it had there a year ago. Shanghai and Mumbai join its regional distribution centre in Singapore.

Service centres

Hawker Beechcraft has seven authorised service centres in Asia, stretching from northern Japan through Taiwan and China's Hainan island. "We will be adding three authorised service centres in the Asian region in the next 18 months," says spokesman Andrew Broom.

Hawker Beechcraft opened an authorised service centre at Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, India on 28 February. Travel conglomerate InterGlobe General Aviation expanded into service and sales last June, and is now the region's authorised dealer for Hawker Beechcraft and intends to establish new service centres across India as it boosts sales.

"Hawker Beechcraft enjoys a 56% 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 chief executive.

That puts it ahead of Embraer in the race into India. "Embraer has 29 authorised service centres around the world and is working to add 14 to the list," says Siu Ying Yeung, Embraer China vice-president for customer services. "Actions are being taken to have our first authorised service centre in mainland China. Currently we have four Embraer authorised service centres in the Asia Pacific region."

Embraer is working to have its 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," adds Yeung.

Source: Flight International