ST Aerospace: Jewel in the Crown of Singapore Aero Sector
The vibrant aerospace sector here in Singapore is perhaps best illustrated by the activities of Singapore Technologies Aerospace (ST Aerospace, Booth G01/L01). Last week, the company celebrated a $20 million revamp and expansion of its original home at Seletar with an official opening. In the 38 years since it began operations there, ST Aerospace has become a global maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) network with facilities and affiliate companies in the Asia Pacific, the Americas and Europe. Today, slightly over half of the company’s 10,500 staff are based overseas.
Last year the company received orders worth $2.3 billion. Headline statistics arising from maintenance and modification work include redelivery of more than 800 aircraft (including five Boeing 757-200 passenger-to-freighter (P2F) conversions), more than 180 engines, more than 250 landing gears and 44,604 aircraft components. It also provided 6,656 engine washes for both commercial and military customers.
“We are the largest MRO in the world, with a strong engineering forte,” Chang Cheow Teck, president, told guests at the Seletar event. “Over the years, we have grown our capabilities from depot maintenance for military operators and general aviation maintenance, to offer a full suite of airline, business aviation and helicopter maintenance and modification, pilot and technical crew training, VIP air charter, special operations and air ambulance services.”
Chang later told AIN that the company must now consider a future in which less man-hours will be needed to maintain new aircraft. “For instance, it may not be so cost-effective for an airline to fly aircraft to a far location such as here for C-checks,” he noted. ST Aerospace is therefore planning to offer more “bundled” content, such as cabin interior revamps and a higher modification content. “We will also engage more with Airbus and Boeing, and build up our capability in composites,” Chang added. Last year, the company’s San Antonio, TX subsidiary acquired Turbo-Mach, a designer and manufacturer of aerospace composites components and assemblies.
At Seletar, ST Aerospace can now handle up to 11 narrowbody airliners and 24 general aviation aircraft simultaneously. But its widebody hangars in Singapore are elsewhere–at Changi International Airport and Paya Lebar airbase, with the latter also handling most of the military MRO for the local and overseas air forces. Last year, the government announced a plan to close Paya Lebar by 2030 and expand Changi for both civil and military operations, including an area dedicated to MRO. This will entail a major relocation for ST Aerospace, and Chang is not yet sure whether the company will build like-for-like facilities at Changi East to replace Paya Lebar. With costs continuing to rise in Singapore, he suggested to AIN that although the military MRO facilities will make the move, the company might not continue to grow its commercial business here. “We have until 2030 to plan the transition,” he noted.
Two years ago, ST Aerospace acquired 35 percent of the EADS subsidiary Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW) in Germany, coincident with the deal with Airbus to design an A330 freighter conversion. EFW was already doing A300/310 freighter conversions, making composite floor panels for Airbus aircraft, and doing general MRO work. Chang told AIN that ST Aerospace has brought new MRO work to EFW, including “two long term contracts to help them balance the peaks and troughs of freighter conversion work.” He said that EFW had completed 20 airliner overhauls since last March, which was their fastest throughput yet.
Other recent overseas initiatives include setting up aircraft leasing business WingStar; the establishment by U.S. affiliate San Antonio Aerospace (STA San Antonio) of an aircraft parking venture; and a “green harvesting” of aircraft parts, components and engines business called Hondo Aerospace. WingStar is a 50:50 joint-venture (JV) aircraft leasing business between ST Aerospace Resources–a new asset-management vehicle–and Wings Capital Partners (WCP) which will focus on mid- to end-of-life aircraft for leasing, conversion and parting out. It is expected to begin operations in the early part of this year and the shareholders plan to build up an aircraft portfolio that will initially include Airbus A320s and Boeing 737NGs.
Establishment of STA San Antonio’s Hondo Aerospace division, which is expected to commence operations before April, follows a long-term property lease agreement with the city of Hondo, for almost 380,000 sq ft of space at South Texas Regional Airport comprising a narrowbody aircraft hangar and surrounding ramp. Marketed as part of ST Aerospace’s MRO network, STA San Antonio (the former Dee Howard Co.) is a subsidiary of Vision Technologies Aerospace, which owns five U.S. aerospace operating companies in Alabama, Texas and Connecticut and is a part of ST Engineering’s U.S. arm, Vision Technologies Systems.
In mid-2013, ST Aerospace announced that–by converting previously extended loans–it had invested nearly $63 million into wholly owned subsidiary ST Aerospace Engines, bringing its total share capital contribution to almost $118 million. The loan partly supported expansion of engine support activities that include disassembly, cleaning, nondestructive testing and inspection, balancing, assembly and enginetesting.
In October, it was revealed that ST Aerospace has injected new capital into its 50-percent-owned Total Engines Asset Management (Team) business, an engine leasing company whose portfolio includes CFM56-3, -5B and -7B engines mainly powering Airbus A320s and Boeing 737s.
Since late last year, ST Aerospace has had a long-term agreement with UTC Aerospace Systems to maintain, repair and overhaul Boeing 787 nacelles for Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 and General Electric GEnx engines. ST Aerospace maintains an inventory of 787 components and parts to support operators worldwide. The business came after a similar agreement for nose-to-tail support of other UTC Aerospace Systems 787 equipment, including bleed-less systems and liquid cooling components. The two companies had previously collaborated on component repair services for various aircraft.
The Singapore Technologies aerospace arm also provides pilot training for military and commercial customers, including air transport and multi-crew pilot certificates. New business acquired in 2013 came from Gulf operator Qatar Airways, for which the ST Aerospace Academy (STAA) has a five-year multi-crew pilot license (MPL) contract.
STAA will recruit and assess cadets for training as Airbus A320 first officers, with the first batch of 36 cadets expected to graduate in the first quarter of 2015. Previously, STAA had completed a Singapore MPL program in partnership with Tiger Airways, supported by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore.
STAA’s MPL program comprises six months of ground school and 13 months of flying training involving four phases. Phase 1 is conducted at its Australian flying school at Ballarat (Victoria), while Phases 2 through 4 and groundschool are conducted at the new aviation center at Seletar, which includes full-flight and fixed-base simulators for the A320.
STAA said that putting cadets into the Airbus A320 simulator from the start of Phase 2 training maximizes their exposure to flying in a multi-crew environment and to the cockpit of the aircraft that they will eventually fly. The company offers commercial pilot certificate programs and advanced pilot training courses. Customers have included carriers such as Hainan Airlines, JuneYao Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, ShunFeng Airlines, Tiger Airways and Xiamen Airlines, as well as individuals. On pilot training capability development, an additional six Cessna 172 single-engine aircraft and matching flight-training device have been acquired for STAA’s Australian fleet.
ST Aerospace and Jetstar Asia have signed a three-year contract covering line maintenance of the carrier’s A320 fleet here at Changi Airport, supported by local base-maintenance facilities. A new narrowbody hangar can accommodate two A320s simultaneously and has increased ST Aerospace’s global hangar capacity to 38 widebody bays, 27 narrowbody bays and 24 general aviation bays.