Thai Aviation Industries (TAI) plans to expand into commercial aircraft maintenance in the hope of securing contracts from low-cost carriers (LCC) in the region.

TAI, which now only maintains military and general aviation aircraft from air force base hangars, aims to open within two years a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) shop at Bangkok's Don Muang airport. A TAI source says the company will initially repair Boeing 737s and is seeking contracts from several Bangkok-based LCCs, including Nok Air, One-Two-Go, Phuket Air and Thai Air Asia. "We are now talking to low-cost airlines in Thailand," says a source. "But we just have a plan. We need a hangar."

TAI's current facilities cannot accommodate any aircraft larger than a Lockheed Martin C-130. But it hopes to build a larger hangar using land that will become available at Don Muang following the opening of the new Suvarnabhumi International airport outside Bangkok. The Thai government is considering allowing LCCs to stay at Don Muang after the opening of Suvarnabhumi, which is set for September this year but is expected to be delayed by several months.

TAI hopes to gradually add capabilities for other commercial aircraft at its proposed Don Muang LCC MRO centre, including Boeing 747s and 757s. Nok, Phuket Air and Thai Air Asia now operate 737s, while One-Two-Go operates 757s. Phuket Air and One-Two-Go parent Orient Thai operate 747s.

TAI is government-owned, but aims to secure private investors by the end of 2008. The company was created by the government in late 2003 using resources and personnel formerly allocated to the air force's in-house maintenance division.


Source: Flight International