MALAYSIA Airlines (MAS) yesterday inked an agreement with Boeing’s unit, Aviation Partners Boeing (APB), to set up a regional modification centre capable of installing fuel-saving wing extensions (winglets) to Boeing aircraft.
It would be the first such centre in South East Asia and the fourth in Asia-Pacific as APB's other centres are in Hong Kong, Xiamen and Auckland. APB is a 50:50 joint-venture company between Boeing and Aviation Partners Inc.
For Malaysia, the setting up of the modification centre is a major boost to the government plans to transform the old Subang airport into a regional aviation hub for maintenance repairs and overhaul (MRO) activities.
The centre in Malaysia would install winglets for the next generation of Boeing 737 series and Boeing 737 Classic series for any airline that wants to use the Malaysian facility.
“It (The agreement) represents a significant leap forward in making the Subang Aerospace Park the recognised hub for MRO (activities). The Subang Aerospace Park is also home to MAS engineering division,’’ said MAS senior general manager, technical and ground operations, Tajuden Abu Bakar.
He said the tie-up with APB would promote technology transfer and enhance MAS-APB’s market presence in the region.
“This link-up would act as a gateway to broaden our product range and expand our customer base,’’ he added.
The investment for the centre is expected to be “minimal” given that APB would provide the necessary equipment that's needed, said APB chief executive officer Mike Marino. He added that MAS just needed to provide the workforce.
Marino could not say how many winglets would be installed on aircraft at the Malaysian centre but what would drive airlines to use them is the rising global oil price as winglets can help airlines save on fuel and improve performance.
The winglets were first introduced in 1999 and aircraft fitted with winglets can expect fuel savings from 100,000 gallons a year for each B737 plane to over 250,000 gallons a year for each B757-200.
So far, 700 B737 planes have been installed with winglets and Marino said there were about 900 aircraft waiting to be fitted. Marino said more business could be expected once winglets for B767 and B777 series are developed.
Tajuden said MAS was in talks with several parties to install their winglets at the Malaysian centre and he expected revenue of about RM4mil over the next four months from the centre.
Asked if the plan to set up a centre in Malaysia was linked to MAS and its parent Penerbangan Malaysia Bhd’s (PMB) plans to replenish 39 of its existing B737 aircraft and also several Fokker planes since MAS had requested for quotes from both Airbus and Boeing, Marino said: “They are separate deals, this does not have anything to do with that.”
Boeing commercial sales vice-president Dinseh Keskar said the aircraft manufacturer is in talks with MAS over potential aircraft purchases.
“With the kind of rapid growth we see in the region, all airlines are adding to their fleet and we are certain MAS would do it soon,” Dinesh said.
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