Nan-Hung Huang

President, Evergreen Aviation Technologies Corp. (EGAT)

Age: 56

Birthplace: Tainan, Taiwan

Education: B.S. in Aviation Technology, National Tainan Polytechnic

Career: Huang was qualified as an aviation technical specialist in 1975 and worked for Taiwan's flag carrier China Airlines before joining EVA Air in 1990. In 1999, he became the lead airline technical focal at UNI Air, a domestic airline subsidiary of the Evergreen Group. He returned to EGAT in 2006 to manage hangar-related maintenance, including the Boeing Dreamlifter modification. Huang was named president of the MRO in January 2011.

Evergreen Aviation Technologies Corp. in Taiwan evolved from being EVA Air's technical department to an independent mid-sized MRO jointly owned by GE. Aviation Week Singapore Bureau Chief Leithen Francis talked with Nan-Hung Huang about EGAT's growth plans and how it competes with lower-priced competition in China.

What are your plans for a fourth hangar? Has the company received the necessary planning approvals?

The paperwork for the construction of a new hangar has already been submitted to the authorities and is currently pending their approvals. EGAT intends to break ground on the construction not later than the first quarter of 2013, subject to securing the approvals. The hangar will be able to accommodate multiple widebody-sized aircraft such as the Boeing 777 and 747-400 Large Cargo Freighter and the Airbus A380. It will be sited toward the end of one of the two runways at the Taoyuan International Airport, the primary international gateway.

Why is the company building a fourth hangar?

EGAT is growing in step with the requirements from its more than 40 airline partners, which have been renewing their fleets. Along with some of the renewals come fleet expansions. EGAT has been asked to be part of their renewal and expansion. We remain focused on aircraft service delivery solutions to enable them to thrive.

What new capability does EGAT plan to add to its repertoire in terms of airframe heavy maintenance and engine overhaul?

In terms of the airframe heavy maintenance (HMV), EGAT will be building capability on the Boeing 787, 747-8 and A380. EGAT's airline partners are requesting that EGAT participate in their fleet renewal activities, to provide services on new airframes. EGAT is a Boeing-approved HMV service provider on both the 787 and the 747-8 under the Boeing Edge program.

On engine maintenance, EGAT is working with GE to understand how to best support EVA Air and GE in their supply chain for servicing the next generation of engines, such as the GEnx and Leap X.

How has your interior retrofit shop been performing? Has business been good?

Since 2009, five airlines have approached EGAT with interior retrofit requests. These include seat and inflight entertainment system upgrades, and passenger layout configuration changes. EGAT has been able to deliver well on its interior retrofit commitments to each of them, with timely deliveries to their planned schedules.

The retrofitting activities are driven primarily by unexpected extensions to aging fleets and interiors due to slower than expected new aircraft deliveries by Airbus and Boeing.

The interior retrofit shop has been rather busy of late with its parent EVA Air's cabin interior upgrade program for its Premium Laurel business-class product offering with flat-bed modular seats.

How does the relationship with your sister company EVA Air work? How independent are you?

Besides being a majority shareholder, EVA Air is a notable customer of EGAT. EGAT provides a comprehensive total service solution to EVA Air and is committed to delivering technical excellence to it and its portfolio of airline partners. In a manner similar to all its customer-partners, charges and pricing for each service delivery and request to EVA Air are negotiated and contractually bound.

That said, 70% of the business at EGAT is derived from other airline partners from Asia, North America, Europe and the Middle East, to whom it offers a similar, all-encompassing maintenance service package. Its current customer-partners take on selective segments of this comprehensive service package.

Where do you source your engineering talent from?

EGAT nurtures its engineering talent inhouse. Trained technicians with engineering backgrounds from the production line who exhibit an aptitude for understanding engineering drawings and diagrams are hand-picked to be trained as engineers.

EGAT is deliberately absent from both development of design engineers, as well as from acquisition of engineering design houses. Instead, EGAT focuses on building effective liaison engineering skills among its engineers, in coordination with the original equipment manufacturerers.

EGAT's extensive in-house knowledge repository accumulates technical know-how from aircraft ramp and major maintenance, significant modifications and fleet management, and also assists in engineer development.

What is Taiwan doing to ensure there is enough local talent to support the MRO industry?

The strong bias of high school graduates toward business and commerce faculties in college is gradually shifting back toward the technical and the sciences following the financial malaise of 2008-09.

EGAT has been working with several local tertiary institutions to provide hands-on summer vacation work and internship programs. It fosters good academia-business relationships by mutually understanding one another's expectations.

What are some of the misperceptions you have to overcome?

To deliver on excellence in this industry, an appropriate attitude and corporate culture is paramount. It is not merely reflected in the grades of newly minted graduates. It is not merely in being individually brilliant. Rather, it is in the teamwork approach to maintenance in this industry. More importantly, it is the sense of commitment and social responsibility that must flow out into the maintenance activities at EGAT.

Our commitment is to the quality of our work, and to safety on the aircraft and the workplace. Our responsibility is to our stakeholders and our environment. Our stakeholders are people who ride on aircraft that EGAT services as well as our airline partners, engineers, technicians, and shareholders EVA Air and General Electric.

We at EGAT believe that the Evergreen culture of “Challenge, Innovation Teamwork” is aptly suited for service delivery in the MRO industry.

Are you getting much heavy maintenance work from customers in the U.S. and Europe?

EGAT is seeing increased levels of HMV work from these two regions and has been requested to take on more. However, EGAT will not take on additional business and work that compromises the quality and timely service delivery commitments on aircraft that it is known for.

How about from China?

EGAT's exposure to the Chinese market remains limited. The capability overlap of MRO providers in China with EGAT is large, supported by its comparatively more effective cost structure. EGAT expects cost parity with Chinese MROs in the next 5-10 years, and with that, more opportunities are expected.

What relationships do you have with airlines in China?

EGAT, along with EVA Air, has been fostering partnerships and business relationships with the Chinese carriers as well as the Civil Aviation Administration of China. EGAT provides some HMV activities and engine overhauls with several Chinese carriers, but their contribution toward EGAT's overall revenue base remains small.

Do you have any long-term ambitions to establish an MRO firm in China?

EGAT does not discount the possibilities of setting up an MRO facility in China. Any developments in China will be in tandem with directions of EVA Air and the Evergreen Group, with input from GE.

You have secured a lot of work from Japan, from carriers such as All Nippon Airways and Skymark Airlines. What would you attribute this to, considering these carriers could have sent the work to China, where manpower costs are lower?

Although EGAT is cost-competitive, it does not merely compete on cost. Instead, it remains focused on total business value delivery. EGAT's airline partners in Japan have experienced this value and we are glad that they have selected us at EGAT as partners for success. When they thrive, we thrive.