Official says Boeing and Airbus on board for EEC

U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing and its European rival Airbus are expected to sign separate agreements on joint investments in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), Thailand’s showcase development zone, the secretary general of the EEC said last week, as the government announced it will spend $65 million on an aviation-specific human resource training center in the EEC.

Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary general of the EEC, said both manufacturers would sign cooperation agreements with THAI Airways, the Kingdom’s national carrier and the lead aviation player in the corridor. Boeing is expected to sign an agreement later this year, and Airbus in the first quarter of 2018, he said.

Aviation and aerospace is one of 10 industries designated by the government for special support and focus as part of Thailand 4.0, the 20-year national strategy to transform Thailand’s economy into one driven by higher technology, research and development, innovation and creativity. The Eastern Economic Corridor, consisting of three provinces east of Bangkok, is where the government will concentrate on initially implementing Thailand 4.0.

Aviation is an industry that is taking off rapidly in the corridor. The government has committed to renovating and upgrading U-Tapao airport, formerly used by the United States military, into a full international airport to serve the EEC and the Eastern Seaboard. THAI Airways has announced plans to invest in and build a state-of-the-art aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul center adjacent to U-Tapao, ensuring the area becomes a leading aviation hub for the East Asia region.

To ensure that Thailand will have the specialists, technicians and workers with the highest skills for aviation and aerospace, the cabinet approved a budget last week of $65 million to begin construction of a training center for human resources in the aviation industry. Construction will begin next year and the center should be up and running by 2021.

The center will also be located at U-Tapao. Under the government’s development plan for U-Tapao, the airport will be upgraded to handle an annual capacity of 15 million passengers a year in the first phase (2017-21), up from 3 million now. The second phase will allow the airport to handle 30 million passengers in 10 years. In the final stage it will handle 60 million passengers in 20 years.

In addition, the government said it plans to borrow $300 million from the Asian Development Bank to use as matching funds to support hi-tech innovation by small and medium size businesses setting up in the EEC.