MRO Profile: Metrojet Maintenance Service Center

 - April 2, 2008, 6:22 AM

Metrojet pioneered business aviation services in Hong Kong and is one of the earliest private business aircraft operators in Asia. It has decided to extend its maintenance offerings to all operators to ensure the continued growth of business aviation in the region.

The company is a part of the Kadoorie Group, founded in 1949, which provides 75 percent of the electricity used in Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories. Kadoorie also has equity interests in power generation in China, Southeast Asia, Australia and India, but it is probably best known for operating the five-star Peninsula Hotel Group.

When Metrojet was awarded an air operators certificate (FAA Part 121 equivalent) in June 1997 it began offering business aviation services such as aircraft charter, management, maintenance, aircraft co-ownership programs and aircraft acquisition and sales. Today the company manages a G450, G550, Challenger 604 and three G200s that are also available for charter.

“In 1997 our maintenance focus was on our own fleet, though right from the beginning the company tried to assist transient aircraft when able; things were fairly quiet in those days,” Metrojet CEO Chris Buchholz told AIN. “By the time I joined the company in 2004 business aviation had taken root in Hong Kong and was growing.” Buchholz, an avid pilot with a Citation 500 type rating, had moved to Hong Kong while working in mergers and acquisitions with Goldman Sachs.

“I knew Michael Kadoorie was operating a G200, so I contacted him in 2004 and told him I felt business aviation was really set to grow in the next few years in Asia. He apparently agreed because he hired me as Metrojet’s director of sales and corporate development.” Within a year Buchholz was asked to move into the COO spot and then last October he added the title of COO of Heliservices.

“It wasn’t until January 2007 we decided to expand our maintenance department specifically to serve the public. We all agreed that with the limited infrastructure in the region we needed to support a critical mass to help business aviation grow in the area,” Buchholz said.

A Service Hub in Asia
Metrojet Maintenance Service Center had 12 employees at the time. Since then that number has grown to 54, and Buchholz anticipates it reaching 60 over the next few months. It is a tenant of its sister operation the Hong Kong Business Aviation Centre (HKBAC), the FBO at Chek Lap Kok Airport.

HKBAC consists of two hangars. Hangar 1 is 23,000 sq ft and houses the FBO facility and sufficient hangar space to accommodate two medium-size and two small jets. The Metrojet Maintenance Service Center is located in the new Hangar 2, a 38,000-sq-ft facility with enough floor space to accommodate an Airbus ACJ or Boeing BBJ.

The operation is an FAR 145 repair station, is CAD (Civil Aviation Department-Hong Kong) approved, CAA Macau approved and authorized by China’s CAAC to sign off on mainland China aircraft. Metrojet sends its technicians to FlightSafety and OEMs for airframe, powerplant and avionics training and has ratings on Gulfstream, Bombardier, Hawker Beechcraft, Falcon, Cessna Citation and Boeing, among others.

In February the company upgraded from a Gulfstream authorized line warranty facility to a full Gulfstream authorized warranty repair facility. It can now do heavy maintenance, including 72- and 144-month inspections and other heavy checks, structural repairs, engine and APU changes, and extensive testing and troubleshooting. The facility also houses $9 million in Gulfstream spares. Last December, it was also approved as a Bombardier AOG/line maintenance facility. The staff has broad engine training to cover all business aircraft, is certified to NDT Level 2 and offers avionics certification for all business aviation lines.

“We’re the only operator in Asia with 24/7 AOG on any aircraft,” Buchholz said. “AOG problems are a major issue in this region because we’re so far away from the OEMs.” Last year Metrojet handled 236 AOG calls for assistance from India to the Philippines and from China to Indonesia.

One of Metrojet Maintenance Service Center’s major advantages is its location on the airside of the airport because it means technicians don’t have to go through Customs, Immigration and Quarantine to pick up parts that arrive via the airlines, FedEx or UPS. Even more important, a technician and part can be driven across the airport to a specific airline and get on board to dispatch to an AOG.

“It is an enormous time saver not having to go through customs and immigration; it can save as much as a day’s worth of paperwork and red tape,” Buchholz said. “And because Hong Kong is a hub airport of Asia, we have a lot of direct flights all over the region.”

Buchholz said the company’s philosophy is to expand the whole pie. “We provide maintenance and support to anyone, including competitor operators. Business aviation is starting to take off here and we all need to work together to make it happen, but our goal is to be the top MRO in Asia. When the time is right we will add facilities in other parts of the region; we’re strictly market driven so we’ll see what develops.”

While finding and attracting qualified personnel is becoming more difficult in some parts of the world, Buchholz isn’t seeing a problem. “Hong Kong is a wonderful blend of East and West: efficient British style government structure, Asian work ethic, and a safe place to live. In addition, Hong Kong has no capital gains tax and the maximum personal tax rate is only 15 percent,” he said.

“Tung Chung is a new community, less than 10 years old, and it is located right here by the airport,” Buchholz explained. “While the condos are new and modern, a 1,200-sq-ft condo is renting for only about $1,000 a month, significantly less than in Hong Kong and Kowloon. Metrojet’s location, both in the region and here in Hong Kong, is absolutely ideal to attract business and employees. The future is looking good.”