Thailand’s Ministry of Transport is pursuing collaboration with four foreign partners—Airbus, Triumph Aviation Services Asia, Triumph Structures (Thailand), and Senior Aerospace (Thailand)—in a bid to boost its aviation maintenance workforce and expand its MRO capabilities to cater to Asia’s aircraft boom. The aerospace companies will launch four training courses in the areas of aircraft maintenance, aviation structural mechanics, ground equipment maintenance, and aviation communications, with a goal to produce 350 technicians annually by 2021. Thailand’s training capacity remains limited; it produces only some 180 aviation technicians yearly.
Plans call for the newly formed partnerships to support the ongoing expansion plans of joint civil-military U-Tapao International Airport, which authorities have earmarked as an up-and-coming “aerotropolis” and aerospace hub as well as an economic growth driver for eastern Thailand. Plans call for the construction of a new runway by 2021, a third terminal, MRO facilities, a free trade zone, a cargo zone, an aviation training center, and a high-speed rail system connecting Bangkok’s two airports: Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang.
Thailand’s push to partner on training programs comes as Airbus pursues a recent agreement to provide basic maintenance and pilot training courses with the country’s Civil Aviation Training Center (CATC). On January 28, the European manufacturer and CATC inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly work on training projects to guarantee a steady supply of pilots, engineers, and mechanics for Thailand’s airlines and MRO centers. Under the agreement, Airbus and the CATC will explore adding maintenance courses and ab initio flight training courses for pilots.
The MoU reinforces Airbus’s commitment to strengthen Thailand’s bid to become a major aerospace hub. In June, Airbus and state-owned Thai Airways inked an agreement to establish a new joint venture MRO facility worth $338 million, the cost of which the joint venture and the Thai Navy will share. Asia’s largest low-cost carrier, AirAsia, also wants to establish a $50 million MRO facility at U-Tapao.
In addition to pursuing partnerships on training needs, the Thai government has actively pursued investments from both domestic and foreign companies across all industry sectors. Investment projects rose by 43 percent from 2017 to 2018, amounting to $28 billion and surpassing the investment target set for the year of $22 billion, Thailand’s Board of Investment (BOI) said in a statement on Wednesday.
In line with BOI’s investment application goals for 2019, the government will host the “Civil Aviation Southeast Asia Summit 2019,” which will run from August 28 to August 29 in Bangkok. Meanwhile, the legislature recently approved a draft bill that allowed foreign investors to own up to own 100% of shares in aircraft manufacturing, aircraft parts manufacturing, and MRO investments in the country.