Rolls-Royce executives have often been heard to remark that, when it comes to selling engines in Asia, there is, arguably, no better sales tool than Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways. The unique relationship which the engine manufacturer has with the Swire Group's airline operation is about to be strengthened further by the imminent opening of a new joint venture, Hong Kong Aero Engine Services (HAESL).

R-R has been a virtual sole-source supplier of engines to the Hong Kong carrier since 1975, with the delivery of its first RB.211-powered Lockheed L-1011 TriStar. R-R marked 20 years of brand loyalty by announcing a $120 million tie-up with Swire's Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering (HAECO) in November 1995.

It was HAECO's inability to handle larger new engines at the soon-to-be-closed Kai Tak Airport, along with the high cost of land rental at the new Chek Lap Kok site, which led to the decision to build a plant at Tseung Kwan O. R-R was also looking to improve regional engine support for its growing Asian constituency.

With phase one at Tseung Kwan O complete, HAESL is preparing a R-R Trent 800 for its first test-cell calibration run. The 100m (330ft)-long cell has been designed to accommodate engines of up to 580kN (130,000lb)-thrust, a considerable boost to what is available at Kai Tak. The new centre also includes a 4,000m2 (43,000ft2) engine-build workshop, with room for 25 Trent engines and an initial 1,300m2 of repair space.

Phase two of the development is due to be completed by late November. Additional workshops will consist of general machining and remaining modular repair shops, chemical cleaning, non-destructive testing, plating, heat treatment, plasma spray, composite repair and stores. Areas have been reserved for administration, finance, personnel and marketing.

HAESL has until 2 April, 1998, to vacate Kai Tak and relocate the remaining two-thirds of its 620-strong workforce to Tseung Kwan O. The rest of HAECO's airframe and line maintenance will be moved to a new, purpose-built, factory at Chek Lap Kok. The hydro-mechanical and avionic-component overhaul capability will be relocated to a new HAECO centre adjacent to HAESL at Tseung Kwan O. The move is made more difficult by "-the need to keep operations going continuously", points out HAESL director and general manager Tom Begley

Immediate priority has been given to moving Trent 700 and 800 work from Kai Tak to Tseung Kwan O. Begley explains: "We will transfer progressively RB.211-524 engines by the middle of the year, with all modular change and testing then being done at the new site."

This will be followed by the transfer of RB.211-22B test and module-change work before the end of 1997, with -535E4s being moved by April 1998. With -22B activity on the wane following the withdrawal from service of Cathay's last TriStars, HAESL is planning to expand its portfolio. New capabilities will include the International Aero Engines (IAE) V2500 family by the fourth quarter of this year.

Begley explains that HAESL is targeting the growing number of V2500 engines in service or on order for regional operators. Cathay's associate carrier, Dragonair, already operates seven V2500-A1-powered A320s and recently ordered two more V2527-A5-equipped aircraft for delivery in 1998/9. Neighbouring China Southern Airlines has also opted for IAE engines for 17 A320s on order.

HAESL was also considering adding the CFM International CFM56 range, but has decided to confine itself to line maintenance. "We've got enough to do already, with priority on getting our existing capability up and going, and then adding the V2500," says Begley.

The joint venture's business plan for the first year calls for a throughput of 150 engines, including 110 -524s, divided equally between C/D and G/H models, and 15 Trent 700/800s. Aside from Cathay and Dragonair, 15% of its activities is now given over to third-party work, the majority of it on -524s and -535s for Air Lanka, China Southern Airlines, Royal Brunei Airlines, South African Airways, Xiamen Airlines and Yunnan Airlines.

HAESL is keen to expand this on the back of the large numbers of Trent 700- and 800-powered Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 twinjets now being ordered by South-East Asian carriers. HAESL has already signed a Trent 700 repair and overhaul memorandum with Garuda Indonesia and begun discussions with Malaysia Airlines on supporting its Trent 800s.

Competition from Singapore Airlines (SIA) is likely. SIA has firm orders for 36 Trent 800-powered 777s and is intent on having a full support capability. It has placed an $18 million order with Mitsubishi for a 667kN engine test cell.

HAESL has clearly stolen a lead, having inherited nearly 7,000 man years of R-R engine experience and collected regulatory stamps of approval from around the world, including Brunei, China, the European Joint Airworthiness Authorities, the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department, South Africa and the US Federal Aviation Administration. "The first Trent 800 is on site and we're ready to run," says Begley.

Source: Flight International