MRO Support Grows In Asia-Pacific

By By Emma Kelly | April 8, 2015

As the helicopter fleet in the Asia-Pacific region has substantially increased in recent years, airframe and engine manufacturers have boosted their support in the region through their own

An Airbus Helicopters EC225 in the Asia-Pacific region. Photo by Anthony Pecchi, courtesy of Airbus Helicopters

facilities, joint ventures and authorized service centers.


With Asia-Pacific helicopter order books continuing to grow, medium term fleet forecasts remaining positive and new types entering the Asia-Pacific fleet, manufacturers continue to develop their support in a region that is becoming ever-more important.

AgustaWestland, for example, has expanded its network of authorized service centers in the Asia-Pacific in recent years. With a global presence in more than 40 countries, some 15 of these are in the Asia-Pacific region, says the manufacturer, operating as either AgustaWestland owned or authorized service and supply centers, covering the AW109 series of aircraft through to the AW119 and AW139.

In Australia, for example, Heliflite provides maintenance services for the AW109 series, AW119 and AW139, while AgustaWestland Australia supports the AW109 series and AW119. In China, Jiangxi Changhe Agusta Helicopter provides service for the AW109 series, AW119 and AW139, while Shanghai Kingwing General Aviation supports the AW139. Japanese customers are well served by Fuji Heavy Industries on the AW139, Aero Asahi for the AW139 and AW109E, Nippi Corporation for the AW109E and Nakanihon Air Service for the AW109 series and AW139, while Helicopters New Zealand provides maintenance services for the AW139 further south in New Zealand.

Support is located throughout Southeast Asia, through Sabah Air Aviation and the manufacturer’s wholly-owned subsidiary AgustaWestland Malaysia in that country; Royal Star Aviation in the Philippines; ST Aerospace Systems and Composite Technology International in Singapore; and SFS Aviation in Thailand.

“As deliveries continue to Southeast Asian customers, including Weststar Aviation of Malaysia, and the AW169 becomes certified and delivered, additional maintenance support facilities will come online and be authorized to provide support, repairs and spare parts,” says the manufacturer.

Recent additions to the support network include Shanghai Kingwing General Aviation in China, which was appointed late last year to support the AW139 from three bases in the country, at Shanghai Gaodong, Xiamen and Fuzhou Zhuqi. The appointment follows the sale of more than 110 AgustaWestland helicopters in China, with 70 of these sold in the last 12 months alone.

AgustaWestland plans to add more maintenance facilities in Southeast Asia as deliveries continue, including to Malaysia’s Weststar Aviation. Computer-generated image courtesy of AgustaWestland

As the local fleet grows, AgustaWestland says it continually evaluates the level of service and support it provides to ensure it meets operational requirements. “The capabilities behind our support network grow in conjunction with our sales and anticipated deliveries. Growth is expected over the course of the next few years as AW189 deliveries increase rapidly and the AW169 is introduced to the region,” it says.

With an Asia-Pacific fleet of over 2,600 – and an order intake in the region that accounts for 27 percent of the group’s bookings – Airbus Helicopters has a significant presence in the region and has developed its local support network to match. All of the manufacturer’s customer centers in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Australia, Japan and China have O level (flight line) and I level (periodic inspection) capabilities covering the entire range, says Philippe Monteux, head of region Southeast Asia and the Pacific. In addition, there are D level (major inspection) repair hubs in Malaysia, for the AS332/EC225, Singapore for the AS365/EC155, Australia for the AS350/355 and Japan for the EC135.

Airbus also has a joint venture with Boustead Heavy Industries Corporation Berhad (BHIC) in Malaysia, which is certified to carry out O and I level inspections on the Malaysian government’s fleet of 12 EC725s, six Navy Fennecs and three AS365s. In addition, there is CTI Systems, which is a Singapore-based joint venture between Airbus Helicopters, Sikorsky and ST Aerospace Engineering providing repair and overhaul of helicopter blades.

As a result, Monteux says there is no need for operators to leave the region for their MRO needs. “The region already covers the full scope of maintenance requirements for the current range of Airbus helicopters and will cover in the future the same maintenance scope for the brand new helicopters,” Monteux says. “Our commitment can be seen in the extensive local footprint that we already have in all the key countries across the region, and we are in a position to ensure we continue to increase our service quality to keep raising the bar in meeting customers’ expectations. We are investing millions of dollars in our current worldwide network, with a special focus in the various regions, to better satisfy our customers.”

With the Airbus fleet in the region set to expand with the entry of new types, including the EC145 T2, EC135 T3/P3 and EC175, coordinated regional plans are important. “The plan is for the Asia-Pacific network to be prepared to accommodate the new helicopter types. Future support plans will be synergized among the Airbus Helicopters customer centers in the region to provide even faster responses and more cost-efficient solutions to our customers. Our objective is to support our customers to maximize the usage of their aircraft at the best operating cost,” he explains.

Bell Helicopter says it has made “significant investment” in its global footprint to ensure its customers in the region are taken care of. There are currently over 1,000 Bell helicopters flying in the region, with a further 100 in China. The Bell 206 is the favored type in the region, with nearly 500 in service, followed by the Bell 412 (150), the Bell 407 (90-plus) and the Bell 429, which is a fairly recent addition to the region’s fleet, with nearly 30 operating in Asia-Pacific today, says the manufacturer.

Like many aerospace companies, Bell has established Singapore as its support center for the region. Bell’s Asia Service Center provides both sales and aftermarket support, including being a global distribution center of Bell parts and assemblies. It focuses on completions, customization, MRO and maintenance training for a variety of Bell products, including the Bell 206, Bell 407 and Bell 412.

Brisbane, Australia-based subsidiary Sikorsky Helitech has been appointed by Sikorsky as its first worldwide authorized customer support center for the S-92 helicopter. Photo courtesy of Sikorsky

Bell also has 18 authorized customer service facilities (CSF), as well as 13 customer service engineers (CSE) in the region. “CSEs are the first point of contact for many of our customers and … help troubleshoot as required. They serve as the primary point of contact back into the Bell Helicopter network, relaying customer issues, concerns and compliments back,” says the manufacturer.

“Much of the service and maintenance in the region can be done by either our CSFs or our Singapore Service Center,” says Bell. “Components that can be removed from the aircraft can be shipped to one of our component repair and overhaul locations [CRO]. We have several CRO shops worldwide to service blade repairs/overhauls, engines, hubs, transmissions, composites and other components,” the manufacturer adds.

Bell says it is always seeking ways to meet the needs of customers in the region. With the growth of the Chinese market in particular, Bell is working with local customers to ensure the market has a ready pool of maintenance technicians. “China in particular has one of the fastest-growing civil helicopter fleets in the world and the need for trained pilot and maintenance [personnel] is increasing quickly,” say Bell.

As a result, one of the partnerships it has in China is with Guangzhou Civil Aviation College to provide technician training on the Bell 206 and Bell 407. “Technicians have been trained in Fort Worth and are assisting with training in-region,” says Bell.

Bell expects to see continued strong growth in China, particularly in the helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) market, as well as in India. “We are seeing a transformation in the helicopter environment in many of Asia-Pacific’s countries. India is starting to recognize that helicopters are not only used for luxury and VIP transportation, but are considered an essential business tool,” says Bell, pointing also to oil and gas and military opportunities.

The Robinson Helicopter Company also expects to see its business in China grow as the country relaxes airspace restrictions and general aviation develops through investments in infrastructure and training. “With low operating and acquisition costs, the high-performance five-place R66 is well suited for the country’s emerging rotorcraft market,” says Robinson.

All three Robinson models – the R22, R44 and R66 – are flying throughout the Asia-Pacific region, with the R44 being the top seller.

The manufacturer has 56 service centers globally, 18 of which are in the Asia-Pacific region. The service centers are independently owned and operated and are required to maintain a spares inventory and employ a factory-trained maintenance technician. Further expansion in the network in the Asia-Pacific region is likely, according to Robinson. “We expect and would like to see continued growth in this region,” the manufacturer says.

Operators of Rolls-Royce helicopter engines in the Asia-Pacific region are supported by the Rolls-Royce Operations Center, which is a 24/7 engineering support facility located in Indianapolis, Ind.
Photo courtesy of Rolls-Royce

Engine manufacturers have also been boosting their support. Rolls-Royce has three authorized repair and overhaul shops in the region for commercial work – Asia Pacific Aerospace in Brisbane, Australia, for the M250 and RR300 engines; StandardAero in Singapore and Sydney for the M250 and RR300; and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan for M250 operators. Military engines are handled by AirAsia in Taipei, Taiwan, and Samsung in Korea, both for the M250. In addition, Rolls-Royce has an approved service center in New Zealand.

While the manufacturer believes the region is “well covered for repair and overhaul,” it is in discussions with “several other locations to join our service center network in the region,” confirms Mark Thompson, helicopter service network manager, with the service centers providing line-level maintenance. In particular, like all manufacturers, Thompson says Rolls-Royce is “keeping our eye” on China.

Although customers do not need to leave the region for their maintenance requirements, they can choose to use the manufacturer’s worldwide M250 FIRST network, which includes Rolls-Royce authorized parts and repairs and allows operators to benefit from competition within the network for best service and cost options.

 “The value of the Rolls-Royce FIRST network is operators can choose where they obtain their maintenance. The service locations know that they are competing for the operators’ business, so customer satisfaction is highly valued. If an operator finds they are not happy, they have plenty of other options to choose from,” says Thompson. Operators in the region are also supported by the Rolls-Royce Operations Center, which is a 24/7 engineering support facility located in Indianapolis, Ind. 

Rolls-Royce believes customers in the Asia-Pacific region are well served and do not need to leave the region for their maintenance requirements, but they can choose to use the manufacturer’s worldwide M250 FIRST network. Photo courtesy of Rolls-Royce

With the Asia-Pacific helicopter fleet expected to grow by upwards of 24 percent over the next four years alone, Australian aviation sales, service and support company Hawker Pacific (HP) anticipates its helicopter MRO services will continue to grow. “Helicopter maintenance is an increasingly important element in the region’s aviation industry and a key growth area for Hawker Pacific,” says Mathew Hardy, rotary-wing sales manager.

HP has comprehensive helicopter MRO and modification capabilities throughout its network in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia and the Middle East. Capabilities include helicopter modification, heavy maintenance, line maintenance, helicopter special mission fitout, structural repairs, component overhaul and exchange, avionics sales and service, systems integration, troubleshooting, field support and AOG contact. The company has recently become the approved retailer and installer for HeliSAS Autopilot systems for the region.

HP has three Bell Helicopter-approved customer service facilities in Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines, as well as a joint venture rotor and blade repair and overhaul facility in Dubai, in the Middle East with Bell, serving customers in the Asia-Pacific, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. As well as being a Bell CSF, it is also an AgustaWestland-authorized blade repair center.

“There has been increasing demand for helicopter maintenance in the Asia-Pacific over the past 10 years,” says Hardy. “Our end-to-end solutions – from sourcing, purchasing, importing, arranging logistics and servicing – coupled with our world-class facilities, allow Hawker Pacific to provide unparalleled support across the region,” he adds.

The nature of helicopter operations in the Asia-Pacific region, namely the remoteness, is a challenge, says Hardy. “One of the greatest challenges in supporting the fleet of the Asia-Pacific region is the large percentage of helicopters that operate in remote locations. The expansive fleet can be thousands of kilometers away from major hubs of the region. This vast geographic spread across Asia-Pacific means operators are not always in close proximity to our facilities,” he says. As a result, HP has “flyaway teams” that conduct remote maintenance, which greatly reduces turnaround times and downtime.

Sikorsky Appoints First S-92 Customer Support Center

Sikorsky Aircraft has named Brisbane, Australia-based subsidiary Sikorsky Helitech as its first worldwide Sikorsky-authorized customer support center for the S-92 helicopter. The announcement, made at the Australian International Air Show, which took place at Avalon Airport, Geelong in late February, also saw the handover of the first two of four S-92s to local operator Bond Helicopters Australia.

Sikorsky Helitech will provide maintenance services for Australian and regional operators of the S-92, providing quick access to Sikorsky’s logistics and spare parts inventory as well as advanced service capabilities.

Sikorsky Helitech, which operates as Sikorsky Aircraft Australia in Australia, has been a Sikorsky company since 2003. It is already a support center for the S-76 line.

“Sikorsky Helitech is very pleased to have been appointed the first S-92 Customer Support Center in the world,” says David Stilianos, general manager. “As the S-92 fleet in the Asia-Pacific region is rapidly expanding, Sikorsky Helitech looks forward to supporting the growing S-92 customer base in Australia, Asia and other parts of the world with a wide range of maintenance, operation, repair and support services, including modifications and completions,” he says.

Sikorsky Helitech also supports Bell helicopter types as an authorized Bell Helicopter Textron repair facility, providing maintenance; airframe structural repairs; blade and composite repairs; component servicing, repair and overhaul; specialized aircraft configurations and non-destructive testing.

Related: MRO News





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