Singapore Air Show

ST Aerospace solidifies standing as a top MRO

 - February 18, 2008, 11:07 PM

Already the world’s largest third-party MRO, ST Aerospace (Stand No. G01) will expand further this week in Singapore by adding CFM56-7 engine overhauls at Paya Lebar and breaking ground for a new narrowbody aircraft hangar at Seletar Airport. The state-owned company now has a turnover of more than S$1.6 billion ($1.15 billion) and boasts a grand total of 43 narrowbody and 25 widebody hangars worldwide.

“We are the only MRO that offers a complete menu from our own resources–aircraft, engine and component overhauls, plus engineering design, development and services,” ST Aerospace president Tay Kok Khiang told AIN.

In the past two years, ST Aerospace has opened a new aircraft overhaul facility in Panama; expanded a joint venture with China Eastern Airlines in Shanghai; opened a logistics facility in China and acquired 70 percent of SAS Components in Scandinavia. That operation has merged with ST Aerospace’s existing UK-based company Airline Rotables Ltd. and has been renamed ST Aerospace Solutions.

However, one operation closed–Basco, a joint venture in the UK with FR Aviation. Tay said ST Aerospace formed the partnership in the expectation that major airlines in Europe would outsource an increasing proportion of their overhauls, as happened in the U.S. That trend failed to materialize, he said, and Basco had to rely on smaller, low-cost carriers. But competition from Eastern Europe, where labor costs are lower, spelled the end of Basco.

The company’s latest avionics upgrade is for the C-130 Hercules. “We’ve been doing C-130 overhauls for 30 years, so we know them well. We do the engines and components as well,” said Tay. ST Aerospace holds a seven-year contract to upgrade the RSAF’s 10 Herks and is looking for other customers. But this is a crowded field. Tay said ST Aerospace will stress its “one-stop shop” capability, with long-term support, and unique software development skills.

ST Aerospace is also expanding a training service that has already supplied 100 transport pilots to the RSAF and has recently added helicopter pilots. It has established a joint venture with ATAS to provide for fixed-wing pilots seeking the new FAA MPL license. The simulator is at Seletar and the flying will take place in Australia. ST Aerospace provides new helicopter pilots for the RSAF on a per-flight hour basis, having bought a fleet of six EC 120B helicopters and upgraded their cockpits to the RSAF’s specification.

But proof that ST Aero is not an automatic shoo-in for RSAF contracts came last year. It was not part of the team led by Lockheed Martin that won the RSAF’s competition for a new basic pilot training solution. It will definitely bid for the advanced jet training requirement in Singapore, said Tay, either as a team leader or a partner.

Freighter Conversions

The first Boeing 767-300 freighter conversion is well under way at ST Aerospace’s headquarters on Paya Lebar Airbase. A few miles to the north at Seletar Airport, the company has begun doing 757-200 conversions for FedEx. The two programs will likely provide many years of work for ST Aerospace, both here in Singapore and in Mobile, Alabama, which serves as the lead site for the FedEx contract.

The 767-300 is a “Boeing converted freighter,” meaning that ST Aerospace does the work under contract to the OEM, which sells the conversion as a type design change. All Nippon Airways is the launch customer for five of its own aircraft that are being replaced in passenger service by 787 Dreamliners. The first is due for re-delivery in June.

The 757s are a licensed conversion, meaning that ST Aerospace will obtain its own supplemental type certificate, using data supplied by the OEM. FedEx chose ST Aerospace’s 757 conversion over two others already available (from Alcoa-SIE and Precision Conversions). However, the company is no stranger to 757 P2Fs, having converted some 15 aircraft for DHL under contract to Boeing some years ago.

FedEx has placed a firm order for 34 conversions, and plans eventually to sign for another 87, but the problem is “feedstock,” as airlines aren’t releasing 757s from passenger service as fast as expected. But with FedEx’s buying power, that could prove more of a problem for the rival 757 P2F converters, rather than ST Aerospace. The first conversion was due to be delivered from Mobile last December, but ST Aerospace president Tay Kok Khiang said that the program was behind schedule because of late deliveries of components from suppliers, who must all be Boeing-approved. “We expect to obtain the STC in the very near future,” he told AIN.