MRO Memo: Boeing, China And India

Boeing and GMR Aero Technic contract siging
Credit: GMR Aero Technic

Amid rising tensions between the United States and China, there is plenty of talk about the West reshoring manufacturing operations or moving them to friendlier countries such as India and Vietnam.

Apple and Samsung are doing exactly that for some of their smartphone production, while Boeing recently announced plans to set up a freighter conversion facility in India through a partnership with GMR Aero Technic.

This will make GMR Aero Technic the first Boeing supplier in India that will have the capability to support future conversions of both domestic and foreign aircraft.

“Our cooperation with GMR Aero Technic is not only a testimony of the maturation of Indian MROs in the country to support the vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat [a state plan to make India self-reliant], but also supports the anticipated growth of the cargo sector in the region,” said Salil Gupte, president of Boeing India.

As Gupte states, India’s domestic growth justifies a conversion facility in the country, but could the move also be seen as a step toward decoupling from China?

On its face, no. Less than a year ago Boeing opened the first of two planned 767-300 conversions lines at GAMECO’s facility in Guangzhou, and the company also has numerous 737-800BCF lines in the country.

Furthermore, the difficult experience of Western companies in Russia, where many have struggled to fully exit the country despite curtailing operations, has raised awareness of the difficulties of a clean break with China.

However, a recent Politico article, “It’s just not easy saying goodbye to China and Russia,” notes that some companies are pursuing an alternative strategy, “not by immediately closing up shop in China—the losses would be too big—but by moving some operations to other countries. ‘De-risking’ is the buzzword du jour.”

Perhaps Boeing’s plans for India fit that trend.

Alex Derber

Alex Derber, a UK-based aviation journalist, is editor of the Engine Yearbook and a contributor to Aviation Week and Inside MRO.