Swiss MRO operator Jet Aviation is looking to the Asian market to help fill its new $25 million hangar at Singapore’s Seletar Aerospace Park — and hoping to tap into the China market too.
"We are in the process of applying for Civil Aviation Administration of China () approval for the facility," Jet’s Singapore Director of Maintenance, Murtaza Hassan tells Aviation Week. Hassan admits the process is a slow one but says it will be worth it for the company when it is certified, planned for the end of 2014.
Jet’s Vice President, Singapore, Gary Dolski says that the local market for business aircraft maintenance is expanding, and should see "significant business" coming to the company’s newly-opened 81,000 sq. foot custom-built hangar. But he admits the biggest hurdle is certification approvals, noting that across the regional business aviation market the requirement for any MRO operator to have multiple licenses is becoming increasingly important.
"We already have ten different approvals for the various regional and international types including, , and many more local approvals," he says. Dolski notes that this injects a "huge overhead" into the regional business costs, not only for the training and certification process itself, but also for the staffing office.
The complex and numerous approvals requirements mean that staff are often out of the hangar for training and therefore unable to work on aircraft, but it also means that as staff become more highly trained, they are more likely to be tempted away to other companies or regions.
"[Certification] involves lots of juggling and investment in fixed costs, but we can’t avoid it if we want to expand the business," Dolski says.
Nonetheless, the company projects 10 percent growth on a year-over-year basis; better than originally expected with an order book of some 15 aircraft a month already. With the promise of Open Asian Skies looming, the company is bullish on its prospects — and is extending its business outside Asia region; it currently sees some 10 percent of its business from Russia.
Jet, which is part of Seletar’s drive to establish itself as a major Asian MRO hub, says that the current biggest hurdle is the dearth of tier 2 and 3 MRO vendors and suppliers, but expects this situation to improve on the back of Seletar’s push for new industries along with generous subsidies. Both Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) and JTC Corporation (JTC) have helped Jet,, and Pratt & Whitney to establish a heavyweight presence at the Seletar campus. "Without their assistance we wouldn’t be here," notes Dolski.
As for the burgeoning China market Jet targets, the country has some 20ACJs currently in service, and saw five Boeing BBJs delivered in the year to April 2014 alone. Boeing particularly sees China as a strong market for its large business aircraft, given the size both of the economy and the country itself.
Nonetheless, Jet says it is aware of the competition for the regional business jet MRO market. The recently-opened Bombardier facility at Seletar, Dolski admits, was "a big hurdle to our expansion plans" with its factory-owned and operated service center almost next door to Jet’s new facility. Bombardier’s 32,000 sq foot hangar opened late last year to service local and regional Bombardier, LearJet and Challenger aircraft, with a potential Asia Pacific market of around 230 jets. Nonetheless, Jet says its operation of the Continuous Airworthiness Maintenance Organization (CAMO) is particularly attractive to Asian owners of business jets who want a one-stop shop for all MRO and certification requirements, without the complex requirements of registration, airworthiness checks and maintenance schedules at different locations.
"We are very confident of the future for the [BBJ] market," says Dolski. "We are already looking at the possibility of looking at a second shift working routine. The growth in numbers of aircraft coming to Seletar is good."