Singapore and Malaysia are vying to become a hub for maintenance, repair and overhaul in Asia, with senior officials from both countries talking to potential partners and customers in Paris while seeking to take advantage of the boom in the regional aviation industry.

Singapore, with a 25% market share, is already the largest MRO provider in Asia. With the forthcoming redevelopment of its former international airport in Seletar, it hopes to attract more work from the region's rapidly expanding airlines.

Manohar Khiatani, assistant managing director of Singapore's Economic Development Board, admits that the lower cost-base of MRO operators in countries such as China, India and Malaysia could be a "growing challenge". But he adds that Singapore's pool of trained aerospace professionals and reputation for quality will help it stand out.

The country's two major MRO providers ST Aero and SIA Engineering are keen to expand their facilities. ST Aero recently opened its third narrowbody hangar at Seletar, and is looking to open an average of one hangar annually over the next few years.

While Seletar can handle only narrowbodies due the smaller length of its runway, a third runway at the international airport in Changi is under construction and that would allow both companies to increase their widebody work.

"We have to make sure we're competitive on a low-cost basis, but also on the range and quality of services available," says Khiatani. "The market is growing in Asia, and a lot of it is driven by low-cost carriers, which generally outsource their maintenance. We are well positioned to get that business."

Malaysia, however, is also looking to compete with Singapore. Its government said in Paris that it is redeveloping the former international airport at Subang, near the capital Kuala Lumpur, into an "aerospace park" targeted at the MRO and business aviation business. Transport minister Chan Kong Choy says that the country hopes to attract foreign companies to the area, and has talked to potential partners in France.

At Kuala Lumpur International airport, Sepang Aircraft Engineering is emerging as a major player and recently signed Malaysia-based low-cost major AirAsia - which currently conducts its MRO in Singapore - as its launch customer. It is building two large hangars at the airport and says it is looking to attract third party work.

Source: Flight Daily News