Airbus eyes investing in repair center in Thailand’s EEC


Thailand’s goal of becoming the top location for aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul in the Asia-Pacific region appears to be on the verge of gaining strong support as Airbus, the European aircraft manufacturer, said last week it is conducting a feasibility study with THAI Airways International on opening a repair center in the new Eastern Economic Corridor.

Airbus is looking to capitalize on demand emanating from the spectacular growth of budget or low-cost carriers in the Asia-Pacific region, and expansion in air traffic and Asian fleets in general. Studies by Airbus and its United States competitor Boeing have forecast that Asia will see the largest growth in air traffic in coming years, and the largest increases in purchases of new aircraft. Airbus expects the number of aircraft in the region to double to more than 15,000 in two decades.

The European aerospace giant is conducting the feasibility study on a possible maintenance center at U-Tapao, the old airport near Pattaya used by the U.S. military during the war in Viet Nam, which has been slated by the government to become the third international airport serving the greater Bangkok.

U-Tapao will also be the key airport serving the Eastern Economic Corridor. The corridor, which covers the provinces of Chonburi, Rayong and Chachoengsao, is the showcase development zone for Thailand 4.0, the 20-year national strategy to transform the Kingdom’s economy and society into one driven by research and development, higher-technologies, green technologies, creativity and innovation.

The government is focusing on 10 industries as the key to this transformation and among them are aerospace and aviation. Thailand is already a regional air, transportation and logistics hub but is seeking to expand and upgrade its capabilities and facilities to maintain its competitive advantages as well as help spur innovations.

THAI Airways International, the national carrier, is already committed to building a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) center at U-Tapao, and should Airbus join in that would significantly bolster the airport’s bid to become the premier maintenance location in Asia.

Investment in the MRO yard could reach $577 million. Construction is expected start as soon as January 2018, with the opening targeted for 2021.

The government has said it will spend $43 billion on infrastructure for the corridor including the upgrade and expansions of U-Tapao airport. It will alsolessen tax obligations and offer incentives for companies that set up shop in the corridor.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who oversees the economic ministries, said Airbus’s involvement is evidence that the Eastern Economic Corridor will be successful.