The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) states that the establishment of an aeropolis at U-Tapao International airport will "stimulate the aircraft maintenance industry", as the country looks to become a major MRO player in the Asia-Pacific region.

In a statement, the CAAT says the project will be completed in two phases. The first phase will see an increase in U-Tapao's total handling capacity to 15 million passengers per annum within five years, 30 million within 10 years, and 60 million within 15 years.

At present, U-Tapao has two passenger terminals that can handle around 3.7 million passengers per year, along with a single runway capable of accommodating widebodies.

In the second phase, the focus will be to build up the MRO industry at the aeropolis, slated to be ready in 2022. Thai Airways International's MRO arm, Thai Technical, has a 24,000sqm MRO facility that can handle work on three widebodies simultaneously.

"The establishment of an aircraft maintenance center at U-Tapao will stimulate the aircraft maintenance industry in Thailand, reduce the loss of revenue to overseas aircraft maintenance, and also attract foreign investment."

As such, the CAAT will look to work with Bangkok to minimise regulatory restrictions to increase the proportion of foreign investment and provide additional tax benefits. It will also look to establish an aviation training centre to address the industry's shortage of skilled workers.

U-Tapao's MRO sector is expected to generate $19 million in revenue during its first year of operation, and is likely to grow to $130 million by 2035.

"The MRO industry in Thailand has a relatively low market share compared to other countries in Asia-Pacific," says the CAAT. "[The market] value is only $974 million, or 2.8% of the region's total maintenance value. Of these, maintenance done within the country is worth only $389 million, or 40% of Thailand's total maintenance value."

"While the MRO industry in Thailand is growing [at a] relatively low [rate], the aviation industry in Asia-Pacific is booming. Currently, there are only 23 MRO operators in the country and most of them are airline maintenance units set up to maintain their own fleet."

Source: Cirium Dashboard