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By Staff Writer | July 1, 2004

Foothold in Malaysia

Composites Technology Research Malaysia expects steadily increasing helicopter-related business from its newly functioning partnership with Eurocopter. Company officials have said they expect annual earnings from its helicopter business to reach 150 million Malaysian ringgits (US$42 million) within five years.

The chairman of CTRM, Tan Sri Ahmad Zaharudin Idris, has said there are promising opportunities for both military and civil applications of helicopter services in Malaysia. Company officials said CTRM plans to become a key regional provider of helicopter maintenance, repair and overhaul services.

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The expressions of optimism came as leaders of CTRM and the Franco-German helicopter maker’s local subsidiary, Eurocopter Malaysia, met to sign partnerships covering the sale, retrofit and leasing to the Malaysia of 30 BO105 helicopters. The signings and transfer of the first eight BO105, surplus German army aircraft, were held at Eurocopter Malaysia’s new facility at Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang, Selangor, north of Kuala Lumpur.

CTRM’s chairman said the B0105s will be retrofitted and customized for the Malaysian government at the company’s 200-million-ringgit ($52.6 million) plant in Malacca. The work will include upgrading the avionics, engine and gearbox. “We are expecting a 10-million-ringgit ($2.6) return on the first year of operations,” he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak said the collaboration between CTRM and Eurocopter could help make Malaysia the hub for the helicopter industry in Southeast Asia. Najib, who also is Malaysia’s defense minister, told reporters that considering currency exchange rates, it is 40-45 percent cheaper to refurbish helicopters in Malaysia than to send them to Europe for that work. CTRM might eventually provide helicopter MRO services for operators in Thailand, Brunei and Vietnam.

The Royal Malaysian Air Force is considering using the BO105 for its advanced flight training program. They also might be used as light attack aircraft. The first of the retrofitted aircraft are to be delivered to the defense ministry in September. CTRM has proposed leasing eight of the aircraft to the defense ministry, which would have an option to purchase them.
CTRM officials said they also are discussing providing aircraft for Malaysia’s fisheries department and emergency medical services there.

Eurocopter set up its Malaysia subsidiary in October 2003. In developing its business in Southeast Asia region, Eurocopter officials have said they consider Malaysia one of the countries with the greatest potential for economic growth.

According to Eurocopter, Malaysian operators fly more than 60 Eurocopter civil and military aircraft, including the Puma, Super Puma, Ecureuil, Dauphin N2 and N3, and EC155. The operators include the Royal Malaysian Air Force, with 30 Alouette IIIs in service, and the Malaysian Army Aviation. Eurocopter is also planning to propose new aircraft, such as the EC130 and EC725, for several Malaysian government acquisition programs.

Major offset programs have linked Eurocopter and Malaysia for 40 years.

One is a partnership among Ikramatic Systems, Eurocopter, and Eurocopter Malaysia for setting up flight training systems for the twin-engine versions of the Ecureuil/Fennec for the Royal Malaysian Navy. Malaysian industry provides logistics support and electronics and avionics maintenance for the Navy’s Fennec program. Under another offset program, SME Aerospace manufactures components and airframe parts on behalf of Eurocopter.

CTRM manufacturers wing components for the A380 double-decker wide-body transport being built by Airbus, Eurocopter’s sister subsidiary in the EADS conglomerate.

CTRM also is a partner in the joint venture Lancair Company, which produces the fully composite, four-seater Lancair Columbia 300. Its partners are Malaysia’s Ministry of Finance and LIMA Development, Inc. of Bend, Oregon in the United States. CTRM also manufactures the fully composite Eagle 150B light aircraft. It also makes the Eagle Airborne Reconnaissance Vehicle, an unmanned aerial vehicle system based on that aircraft, in collaboration with BAE Systems.

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