Airbus inks U-Tapao deal during PM’s visit to France

European aviation firm Airbus provided a fitting capstone to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s visits to France and UK last week by signing a joint-venture agreement with THAI Airways International to establish an aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul center at U-Tapao in the Eastern Economic Corridor.

The agreement illustrates the growing recognition by foreign investors that the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) is key to Thailand’s advanced development, sustainable competitiveness and the ideal location for businesses in the Southeast Asian region. Aviation and aerospace are among the ten advanced industries the Thai government is promoting and supporting in the EEC because of their importance to logistics and their technological benefits.

Prime Minister Prayut was present at the signing, which took place at Airbus headquarters in Toulouse. During the visit, the Prime Minister also met with French President Emmanuel Macron, and while in Britain with Prime Minister Theresa May. They discussed expanding trade and investment, and other issues.

At Toulouse, Usanee Sangsingkeo, acting president of THAI, and Eric Schulz, chief commercial officer of Airbus, signed the document as Prime Minister Prayut and Guillaume Faury, president of Airbus Commercial Aircraft looked on.

“We are pleased to enter into this major agreement with THAI. This will further strengthen the long-term partnership between our two companies and also contribute to the success of Thailand’s new eastern economic zone,” Faury said.

“With the fleet of widebody aircraft in the Asia-Pacific region set to triple to around 4,800 aircraft over the next 20 years, the project represents a sound business opportunity for both our companies,” he added.

U-Tapao airport is roughly 107 miles east of Bangkok and links the capital with the Corridor and the Eastern Seaboard. It is being developed into the third international airport to serve the capital, along with Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang, which are also being expanded to meet burgeoning capacity.

Just as importantly, U-Tapao will be the nexus of aviation research, development and production, with the new maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) center serving as a foundational project that should also raise Thailand’s profile as the aviation hub of the region.

“THAI and Airbus have undertaken extensive studies to validate the business plan for this exciting project,” said Usanee of THAI. “Together we will develop one of the most advanced and efficient aircraft maintenance centers anywhere in the world. We are confident that this venture will bring significant economic benefit for THAI and will be a major driver in the development of the wider aerospace sector in Thailand.”

The Nation newspaper reported that the MRO center will employ the latest digital technologies to analyze aircraft maintenance data, as well as advanced inspection techniques, including the use of drones to monitor aircraft airframes.
There will also be specialized repair shops, and a maintenance training center for technical personnel from Thailand and overseas.