CHIANG RAI – A joint venture led by Seri Sapphakit Co and Singapore’s ST Aerospace are planning to establishes a major aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul service centre in Chiang Rai.
Seri Sapphakit Co, a Bangkok-based trading company, is seeking Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) approval to build a facility capable of conducting the most comprehensive and demanding checks.
The MRO will initially cost 800 million baht before the joint venture seeks a multiphase development that will include the creation of a pilot training school and flight simulator centre.
AoT is enthusiastic on the project proposal from the group led by ST Aerospace, formerly known as Singapore Technologies Aerospace and regarded as a global MRO player with facilities and affiliates in the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe.
“Theirs is a very serious proposal and we have seen their strong intention to realise the project [in Chiang Rai],” AoT acting president Nirandra Theeranatsin told the Bangkok Post.
In February, ST Aerospace reconfirmed its intention to pursue the project. It is expected to table a formal proposal with full details to AoT later this month.
The Chiang Rai project is seen as a key driver to turn Thailand’s northernmost province into an important aviation hub in Southeast Asia.
Aside from tourism and agricultural products, Chiang Rai has nothing much to offer and its airport has served mostly domestic flights in limited numbers.
The proposed MRO aims to serve Thailand-registered airlines such as Thai AirAsia, Nok Air and Thai Lion Air, which have a combined fleet of about 160 aircraft, according to an AoT executive.
It will also serve other regional airliners, whose numbers are also growing rapidly alongside the proliferation of low-cost carriers.
The facility will also allow ST Aerospace to handle aircraft that cannot have maintenance checks at its Singapore base.
The Singapore facility has become stretched due to the large number of aircraft sent there for MRO services, especially for the rigorous “C” and “D” checks that take longer.
For instance, the D check occurs every six years and takes the entire aircraft apart for inspection and overhaul.
The C check, requiring most of the aircraft’s components to be inspected, is performed about every 20 — 24 months or after a specific amount of flight hours.
The Chiang Rai facility would have C and D check capability, making it more compelling for airlines to send aeroplanes for service there.
ST Aerospace has asked to lease a 150-rai plot adjacent to the north of Chiang Rai airport for the MRO project, with a third of the area used for the initial development.
The land lease would be for 30 years and development conducted on the basis of “BTO”, standing for build, transfer and operate.
AoT executives said ST Aerospace would not have exclusivity in developing the MRO at Chiang Rai but it would certainly enjoy the first mover’s rewards.
AoT welcomes similar proposals from other parties because they contribute to the ambition to put Chiang Rai on the region’s aviation map. The MRO investment will allow AoT to utilise better 640 rai of vacant land at Chiang Rai airport.
AoT intends to apply its standard concession fees and terms for outside parties conducting business on its land.