Malaysia sees great potential from futuristic flying vehicles, as it works to further develop its aerospace ecosystem.
Speaking with FlightGlobal, Malaysia’s Minister of Entrepreneur Development Redzuan Yusof says while the potential for what he refers to as “aerocars” has yet to be realised, Malaysia hopes to be at the forefront as the industry evolves.
“Why spend money on building infrastructure in the middle of Sarawak, for example, when you can use aerocars to transport people and goods?” asks Yusof. “Why build expensive bridges that you need to maintain. If we have this mobility, I can do away with infrastructure.”
Sarawak is one of Malaysia’s two states on the island of Borneo. It is characterised by difficult terrain and rivers.
Yusof stresses that regulations regarding future air mobility have yet to be fleshed out, but that industry should have a role in defining advanced mobility concepts.
“Regulation is about creating an environment where you can have your own vehicle to fly,” he says.
He also foresees the subscription model as being the most likely structure: “You go to a station and there is a fleet of cars. You put in your card and fly.”
Yusof adds that several foreign companies have approached Kuala Lumpur to discuss future mobility. In addition, local firm Aerodyne is developing an air mobility vehicle powered by four ducted fans.
Aerodyne is part of a broader movement of smaller Malaysian companies that hope to make their mark in the world’s aerospace industry.
Naguib Nor is president of the Malaysia Aerospace Industry Association. He sees it as essential that Malaysia rise up the aerospace value chain, because the country needs to diversify the economy away from natural resources such as oil and palm oil.
“The idea is to build up 50 Malaysian SMEs [small to medium sized enterprises] in Malaysia to a critical mass, and then mature that. Originally it was mainly Boeing and Airbus related work, but now some joint opportunities are coming up.”
He envisages a future where aircraft can be developed and certificated in Malaysia.
He sees a number of factors helping this. One is the sheer amount of orders made by Southeast Asian airlines in general, and AirAsia in particular. This helped set the stage for advanced workshare on major programmes.
One success story has been UMW M&E and subsidiary UMW Aerospace, which in 2015 signed a 25-year agreement with Rolls-Royce to manufacture and assemble fan cases for Trent 1000 powerplants.
Another factor in Malaysia’s favour is demographics. Traditionally, Japan has been heart of the Asia-Pacific aerospace industry. As its population ages and greater production efficiencies are sought, its aerospace firms are interested in moving more and more work to lower cost countries such as Malaysia, which also have younger populations.