You may know Air Asia as Southeast Asia’s largest low-cost carrier. But there is another Air Asia in the region. It is a major MRO company on Taiwan that traces its history all the way back to 1946. Today, it offers a wide range of services to airlines as well as air arms, who were the original customers.
To reduce the confusion, Taiwan’s Air Asia is also known as Air Asia Company Ltd, or AACL. It is based at Tainan airport, where there are three big hangars for narrowbody airliners and 10 small ones for the overhaul of helicopters, plus a big engine and component shop. But some of AACL’s 800-plus employees also work at six other locations on Taiwan, thanks to a major outsourcing contract from the country’s armed forces. The company overhauls and supports Taiwan military aircraft ranging in size from the C-130 Hercules down to the MD 500 helicopter.
The latest addition is the P-3 Orion, 12 of which are now in service with the Taiwanese Air Force. Lockheed Martin was obliged to find a local support and overhaul company as an offset. “But after a survey, Lockheed Martin chose us,” an AACL official told AIN. The company names EVA Air as a competitor that derives a significant amount of its turnover from third-party MRO.
The recent renewal for five years of the local military outsourcing contract, otherwise known as the Government Owned Contractor Operated (GOCO) contract, helped AACL’s application for a public listing on Taiwan’s stock exchange last September. Before this, about 80 percent of the company was owned by the Taiwan Aerospace Corporation (TAC), 30 percent of which is already privately owned, with the remainder held by banks and quasi-government entities.
AACL’s turnover reached S$121.8 million (US$92.4 million) in 2016, and about one-third of that is already commercial work. The company is seeking new customers in Asia, especially airlines flying the A320 and 737 families. It holds commercial MRO approvals from the U.S. FAA, China, Japan, and Russia plus seven other jurisdictions, five of them in Asia. These also cover the MD-80/90 series, most Bell helicopters, and a variety of other types.
The company has also been licensed as an authorized service center by major non-airframe OEMs, including Honeywell, Rolls-Royce, and the Triumph Group.
As part of its expansion strategy, AACL is seeking approvals from EASA and “strategic alliances” with other repair shops. It has held talks in Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The company told potential investors last year that the global aviation maintenance market will rise in value from S$89.1 billion (US$67.6 billion) in 2016 to S$132.6 billion (US$100.6 billion) in 2026. By that time, China and the Asia-Pacific region should account for 40 percent of that.