Oh, No, Not The Dreaded Word Again!

KUALA LUMPUR: The word “hub” has been so misused in Malaysia that Malaysian Defence dreads every time it is used to describe projects most of which had bitten the dust.

Infact, the regional MRO hub dream have been used several times before without ever being realised. Now a new one have been resurected.

I dont know whether Datuk Seri Najib had realised it or not but Malaysian Defence believed that he had made similar aerospace or MRO hubs several times before.

Unfortunately, none have materialised so far. Ever since they decided to shift the international airport, on various occasions the Subang airport have been planned as the regional MRO hub. As soon as Air Asia took off, the airline sent its planes to Singapore, deflating the Subang MRO dream.

Air Asia recently yet again ignored the Subang MRO, by signing a deal with another MRO company to operate its maintenance and repair facility at KLIA next to the low-cost terminal. The company which signed with Air Asia, announced that they also wants to become the regional low cost carrier MRO hub. Yes, another hub.

The Subang hub is now slated for Malaysia Airlines, Airod and Eurcopter. Perhaps Malaysia Airlines will make it work but with another grand “hub” plan, Malaysian Defence begin to wonder.

Airod is supposed to be the lead agency for the Subang MRO hub but everyone knows it is unable to compete internationally even with some 300 Hercules aircraft operated by Muslim countries around the world.

And as for Eurocopter, it will depend on it getting a huge Malaysian government contract. With the Nuri replacement programme going full swing, the dream maybe realised but wait isnt the AgustaWestland AW101 is the favourite to win the tender?

As for AugustaWestland, a few years ago, it announced through its local partner, Deftech Sdn Bhd that it will set up a regional MRO at Kulim High Tech park should it got the Nuri replacement programme.

So we are now left with Malaysia Airlines. It is doesnt look good actually. With most regional airlines going for Airbus single aisle airliners, Malaysia Airlines will be competing with Air Asia’s contracted MRO for the job. Unless of course, Malaysia Airlines go Boeing.

At the moment only Transmile is smiling. It has no problem getting the MRO job since it is going for a different sort of market – the 30-year-old cargo planes like the MD-11s or the older generation Boeing B737s.

Will the MRO hub work? The evidence so far is not good. But never fear, the much used word will be re-cycled again.

— Malaysian Defence

Malaysian National News Agency

Malaysia To Be Regional Aircraft Maintenance Hub – Najib
September 21, 2007 14:57 PM

PETALING JAYA, Sept 21 (Bernama) — The government plans to turn Malaysia into a regional hub for aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The deputy prime minister said this had been outlined by the Malaysian Aerospace Council chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

“Suitable areas for MRO activities have been identified. They would not only involve Malaysia Airlines (MAS) but also other parties like Eurocopter which operates a similar facility for helicopters here (Subang),” he told reporters after opening the MAS Engineering Training Centre (METC) in Subang here Friday.

Najib said the move to establish the METC and related training programmes for Felda youths were among the strategies to attain the government’s objective.

The METC, he said, had obtained international certification, with 30 per cent of its business coming from international airline operators.

He said Malaysia was ranked fifth in Asia and tenth in the world in terms of MRO capability.

Najib said besides civilian aircraft, Malaysia was also able to perform MRO work on foreign military planes through Airod Sdn Bhd.

“So our hub will be unique because it’ll be able to handle civilian and military planes as well as helicopters,” he said.

Earlier, in his speech, Najib said MAS should enhance its engineering prowess which was the backbone of the airline’s operations.

“Engineering capability to support MAS must be second to none. There is a need to embrace the culture of precision and excellence. Now everything is calculated in micro and you need precision to have the competitive edge,” he said.

Najib said MAS engineers and technicians were much sought-after by foreign companies but while this was a flattering reflection on the nation’s ability, it nevertheless presented a new challenge of how to ensure the existence of a critical pool of talents in this field.

He said with the increasing demand for air travel resulting from increased affluence and affordability, fleet expansions and the introduction of new and bigger aircraft would undoubtedly require development of a robust MRO industry.


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