Recognized as a specialist for performing D-checks and modifications on all Boeing 747 models and several other civil airliners, Alsalam Aircraft is steadily expanding its penetration of world maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) markets. The company’s vice chairman, HH Prince Faisal ibn Farhan ibn Abdullah Al-Saud, told Aviation International News that customers in Asia and Africa are growing in number and adding to those in the Gulf.
Formed as part of an offset agreement with Boeing, which is a 50 percent shareholder, Alsalam Aircraft initially began as a support facility for Saudi Arabian civil and military aircraft. However, “Security considerations make it difficult to secure defense contracts from other countries in the region,” declared Prince Faisal, although work on C-130 military transports operated in the region has been undertaken.
A recent agreement with Boeing enables Alsalam to offer the C-130 avionics modernization program (AMP) developed by the U.S. company for the U.S. Air Force. A simple simulator on the Alsalam stand (C700) demonstrates the benefits to be derived from applying the AMP to C-130s in the Gulf region and beyond.
Combining state-of-the-art capabilities from the Boeing 737 with the proven cockpit functionality of the C-17 military airlift aircraft, the updated C-130s could remain in service for another 30 years. Alsalam plans to offer C-130 heavy maintenance in 2008, although to meet Royal Saudi Air Force requirements, the task would be put out to competitive tender.
But given the limitations on securing much more defense business in the region, Prince Faisal is looking to expand civil airliner business, offering low cost and fast turnarounds that can be relied upon. It is plans to offer heavy maintenance on the Boeing 777 for Saudia and others within 18 months, but the national airline is expected to provide support for the ordered Embraer 170s in house.
Some 60 percent of the 2,500 or so Alsalam staff are Saudi citizens and the trend towards self-sufficiency in manpower is increasing at the rate of 8 percent per year. To train engineers and others to the highest standards, some local technical colleges provide a source of graduates, while some staff are sent to the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida where they obtain a U.S. license.