Saudi MROs Respond To Increasing Activity
Saudi Arabia’s MRO players are seasoned operators. Alsalam Aircraft Co. (Stand 1718) is one of the two or three leading players in the kingdom and a pioneer in aircraft maintenance, modification and technical support in the Middle East. It carries out corporate, VIP and military work for customers worldwide. “Our expertise covers civil aircraft maintenance; military aircraft maintenance; programmed depot maintenance (PDM); technical support programs; manufacturing and assembly; and VIP interior completions, in addition to specialized aviation training,” said the company.
Supporting the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF), Alsalam started out subcontracting for Boeing in 1989 on the RSAF’s E3A AWACS and KE3 tankers. In 1997 Alsalam started a PDM program on the RSAF’s Tornado fighter-bombers. This led to its winning the RSAF AWACS E-3A and KE3-A PDM in 2000, the RSAF F-15 PDM in 2002 and the RSAF C-130 program in 2007.
“Alsalam’s military business continues to grow. We have a number of programs currently under contract and new ones coming online,” said Mohammed Fallatah, Alsalam’s president and CEO, commenting on the company’s current operating outlook. “The F-15 Wing and Forward Fuselage Assembly program which started on 1st of July was the most recent program to come online. This is quite a landmark for Alsalam, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, as the F-15 program sees Alsalam entering high-tech manufacturing for the first time and positions us well for similar work going forward. Turnover is approximately SAR1 billion ($270 million) split 80 percent military and 20 percent commercial,” Fallatah said.
Helicopters are a growing business, and Alsalam has been quick to serve the market. It also provides MRO to Royal Saudi Land Forces Aviation Command helicopters. According to its website, Alsalam’s range of helicopter projects include the Bell 412, 212, 206 and 406; Boeing Apache AH-64; Sikorsky’s Black Hawk UH-60 and ASH-3D (VIP). “About two years ago the inventory of helicopters in the kingdom began to grow and Alsalam responded to that growth by offering our MRO to the operators. Since then, we have established a dedicated department for helicopter MRO work and we see a lot more growth and opportunities ahead in this market,” Fallatah said.
Business Jet Work
Alsalam is the only designated warranty center for Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) in the MENA region. Business jet completions and MRO are also vital Alsalam services. “[Today] the Saudi Arabian government is our main client for VIP work. [We] are an approved BBJ warranty repair center and BBJ completions center, and we anticipate adding to our list of clients,” said Fallatah.
Alsalam is owned by Boeing Industrial Technology Group, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Saudi Advances Industries Co. (SAIC) and Al-Bilad International Technology and Industry Co. “Boeing’s relationship with the Alsalam Aircraft MRO goes back to the 1983 Peace Shield Offset Program. Boeing won Peace Shield and kicked off four aerospace joint ventures. Subsequently, Boeing divested itself of three of the companies but continues to maintain approximately 50 percent ownership in Alsalam,” said Steve Taylor, CEO of Boeing Business Jets.
“Saudi Arabia is an aviation country and requires aircraft depot, modification, repair and scheduled maintenance capability. The VIP aircraft community also needs a local provider. Boeing has certified Alsalam as a BBJ repair station.”
Alsalam holds certifications from the U.S. FAA, EASA, the Saudi Arabian GACA, BAE Systems, ISO and NADCAP. “As a Part 145-certified repair center, Alsalam has regular audits by the certifying authorities and we are proud of our 100-percent pass record since we began operations 25 years ago,” said Fallatah.
SAEI Civil MRO
Where Alsalam has gravitated to the military side, Saudia Aerospace Engineering Industries (Stand 2066), based in Jeddah, is the leading Saudi civilian MRO operation. Established over 60 years ago, the company was officially reconstituted as a full-service MRO for commercial, business jets and VVIP aircraft as part of the 2009 Saudi Arabian Airlines privatization program.
New passenger terminals in Jeddah, Riyadh, Medinah, Tabuk, Yanbu, Abha, Jizan, Tayef, Qasim and Alhasa have all accompanied a dramatic opening up of Saudi airspace to international operators in the past two years, increasing SAEI’s workload. It has also signed agreements for line maintenance in various domestic international airports to handle the more than 12 airlines that operate into them.
“SAEI is planning on having line maintenance hangars built at Riyadh, Dammam and Medina airports, and the manpower has been increased at domestic regional airports to allow handling of third-party business,” said Ribhi Al-Husseini, SAEI’s director technical sales and marketing. “[A] new maintenance and engineering system [will be] online by end of 2013, which will allow better services to clients. New capabilities [are] being added for A320, A330 and B777. New engine overhaul capabilities now include the CF34 and CFM56.”
A consortium led by Turkey’s TAV Construction won the contract in 2012 to build SAEI’s new MRO facility in Jeddah. TAV expects construction to be complete in March 2015. “The construction of the new facility… started in March 2013,” said Al Husseini. “The Jet Propulsion center has upgraded its facilities to handle the overhaul of both the GE CF34 engine and the CFM-56 engine. Some of the existing workshops have gone through an expansion project to allow for the increased demand on component work.”
Two new ATEC 6000 test computers have been added since last year, making a total of three ATEC 6000 computers and allowing increased capacity to test more than 115 aircraft computers, said Al Husseini. A $5 million investment was made in CNC and part fabrication and machining equipment to allow SAEI to enter the parts fabrication business.
SAEI is an approved Dassault service center and handles line and base maintenance on selected aircraft. In 2013, the company also was contracted by a private customer to perform two D-D-checks on Boeing 747s.
Today, SAEI has more than 5,150 employees, over 92 percent of whom are Saudi nationals. It currently has approvals from GACA, the FAA and EASA; and from several GCC civil aviation authorities, as well as those of Korea, Singapore, India, Malaysia, Al Husseini said. The metrology laboratory at SAEI has obtained American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) for calibration services in addition to ISO9001 certification.
“By end of 2013, SAEI will start operating a new state-of-the-art maintenance and engineering system,” said Al Husseini. “By 2016, SAEI will launch operations out of its new one-million-square-meter facility making it by far the largest MRO in the region, with an estimated 7,500 employees.”