Thai Airways International hopes to become a major player in heavy maintenance and aircraft conversions, and its plan involves investing in new widebody hangars at Bangkok’s Don Muang airport and a tie-up with Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and US firm Flight Structures (FSI).

The Thai national carrier’s VP of heavy maintenance, Chailerk Thipayachan, says it already has three widebody heavy maintenance hangars at Don Muang and work has started converting two line maintenance hangars to heavy maintenance hangars.

About 30% of the work has been done and it will be completed in January, says Chailerk, adding that the carrier is now sourcing docking stations. The airline is also doing a feasibility study on whether to build three more hangars at Don Muang.

It needs additional hangars because Star Alliance member Thai anticipates that the amount of third-party work it does will increase dramatically. Chailerk says currently 20% of its heavy maintenance work is for outside customers but it anticipates that in a few years it will be 40%.

Thai also needs hangars because it plans to move into the aircraft freighter conversion business.

“We are about to sign the memorandum of understanding with IAI” to do Boeing 747-400 passenger-to-freighter conversions, says Chailerk, who declines to be drawn on a specific timeframe for signing.

The first freighter conversion will be for a third-party customer rather than for Thai, says Chailerk.

They have yet to secure a customer but will eventually be tasked with converting at least some of Thai’s 747-400s into freighters, says Chailerk, adding that Thai might end up operating the 747 freighters itself.

This would be significant because Thai currently operates no freighters and instead relies on the bellyhold space on its passenger aircraft and wet-leased freighters.

Chailerk also says Thai plans to convert at Don Muang some of its Airbus A300-600s into freighters using the supplemental type certificate (STC) of US firm FSI. He says FSI is one of only two companies in the world with the STC to convert A300-600s.

Thai has already phased out four of its A300-600s and the next one to be grounded is likely to be converted by Thai into a freighter, which means the programme will start next year, he says.

Once converted the airline will either sell the aircraft or choose operate the freighter itself, he adds.

Source:'s sister premium news site Air Transport Intelligence news

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