Airbus' facility in Thailand, on the outskirts of Bangkok. (Airbus Helicopters)
BANGKOK, Thailand — Looking to grow its market share in Thailand, Airbus Helicopters says it expects to capture fifty percent of the country’s orders in the next ten years.
With a total fleet in-country of roughly 350 rotorcraft, Pierre André, the company’s managing director for Thailand, said Airbus’ market share is currently just 20 percent, but the orders tell a different story. Airbus received 68 orders in the country over the past ten years and expects about the same in the next ten years.
Thailand is a critical part of Airbus Helicopters’ Asia-Pacific presence, home to an MRO built in 2008 that services Airbus rotorcraft in Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand. The facility began as a branch of Airbus’ regional hub, but the major has since increased its investment and grown it into a standalone Thai company. Airbus is the only rotorcraft OEM with its own MRO in Thailand, according to Andre, and has 47 total staff in the country.
The Airbus fleet in the nations serviced by this facility is just north of 80 helicopters, André said, with very few helicopters present in in Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. Regarding Myanmar, which faces conflict in many areas of the country, Andre said Airbus Helicopters is in “watching mode,” to see how the market develops.
Almost the full range of Airbus helicopters is present in Thailand, from the light single-engine H125 to the medium twin-engine H225M. Last year, the Royal Thai Air Force ordered four H225Ms, to be used primarily for troop transport, bringing the total ordered by the country to 12.
Speaking to journalists visiting Thailand last week, André said more than 90 percent of the helicopter market in Thailand is government-operated, including both military and civil. They’re used by branches of the country’s military and police as well as for surveying, agriculture, search and rescue and environmental purposes. Outside of government agencies, Thailand’s helicopter market is mainly EMS, corporate and tourism, with some oil and gas industry.
Inside the hangar. (Airbus Helicopters)
The Airbus facility, located 9 km north of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport, is a maintenance supplier to the government through a partnership with Thai Aviation Industries (TAI), a state-owned enterprise. Since 2017, TAI is an Airbus-approved distributor of support and services to the Thai military forces.
The company sees growth opportunities in selling turnkey, full maintenance packages to operators, but offers a wide array of solutions and works closely with Thai government agencies to meet their needs. The success of Airbus’ Thailand MRO comes from efficient use of resources, André explained, with “more than 80 percent” of available maintenance man-hours occupied by projects.
Asked about challenges Airbus has faced operating in Thailand, André said his team has “the right suppliers, the right tools, [and] the right skills,” but mentioned cultural challenges present in training Thai maintainers to speak up.
“Everybody and every culture have some specific challenges,” André said. “We are paying dedicated attention to ‘speak-up culture.’ Thai culture is extremely polite…speaking up, expressing yourself in Thai culture is not necessarily natural. So, we have regular training for our staff to make sure everybody has the desire to talk when safety is at stake.”
“The safety mindset is there [in the people] — absolutely no doubt about it. It’s about sharing it.”