PARIS: Malaysia’s pioneering leader in the aerospace sector Datuk Naguib Mohd Nor, who is also the president of Malaysian Aerospace Industry Association (MAIA) avers that the country’s role in the global aerospace supply chain has become “more mature”.

Malaysian aerospace companies according to him, who runs his own company Strand Aerospace Malaysia Sdn Bhd, has graduated from their once nascent stage to a high level of sophistication, providing solutions to complex aerospace engineering issues.

“We have come a long way… from the time we ventured into the aerospace sector… and now we can tackle complex issues of manufacturing and services for this highly demanding sector,” he told Bernama in an interview on the sidelines of the ongoing Paris Air Show here.

About 15 Malaysian aerospace companies participate in the air show, showcasing their products and services.

Naguib pointed out that Malaysia has already established itself as a competent manufacturer of aero-structures, avionics, interiors and other systems, and parts of the crucial wing of the A350 aircraft.

In the avionics segment, Malaysian companies he said, provided inflight entertainment as well as cockpit system.

Malaysian companies he said, were already Tier-1 suppliers such as UMW Aerospace, SPIRIT Aerosystems, Senior Aerospace which supplied directly to aircraft manufacturers.

Others, categorised as Tier-2 suppliers, confined their supplies to Tier-1 suppliers who, in turn, then supplied to the manufacturers.

Malaysia is also facing fierce competition from other established and emerging aerospace supplying nations such as China, India, Taiwan, etc.

“The global supply chain system allows our capacity to grow. Innovation is a key to future survival and growth,” he said, adding that the use of artificial intelligence in aerospace was growing but being – still – a regulated industry, the introduction of AI is incremental.

“AI is used in the maintenance of the aircraft. However, this is still in the implementation stage. Malaysia faces the challenge of finding qualified workforce. Consequently, the emphasis is now being placed on technical vocation training.

“I must point out that Selangor and Penang are leading in this field and have organisations which are much more industry-oriented. Penang’s electronics and avionics industries are rapidly developing. Our education agency Mara is playing an important role and owns the largest number of vocational training institutions which are partnering with Germany, France, Spain, Japan, and the United Kingdom,” Naguib said.

Naguib started his career, after completing his Master’s degree, at the Stress Analysis and Design Engineering UK Ltd, which allowed him to work from this position for Airbus UK and coordinate directly with the heads of engineering and management at Airbus.

The MAIA president worked on the design and development of wing, fuselage, landing gear and other aircraft system components of various civil and military platforms for Airbus, including Nimrod MRA4, A400M, A300, A330, A340, etc.

In a way, Malaysia’s interest in aerospace development was also aroused by his pioneering thrust in this field, using Strand Aerospace, to foray into the aerospace arena.

But Naguib also acknowledged that Malaysia needed to strengthen its “innovation culture”.

In the past, innovation had not been adequately emphasised; foreign investing companies used Malaysia for its labour forces or to penetrate the Southeast Asian markets, using Malaysia as an entry point.

Making an assessment of the Paris Air Show, he believed that rising global air travel will impact the aerospace sector as roughly 80 per cent of the world’s population had yet to take an airline flight.

The current aviation market is dominated by low-cost travel and affluence is expected to grow in Africa just as it is happening in Southeast Asia facilitated by low-cost carriers.

Airbus and Boeing’s sales have been, mostly, in the “single-aisle market” comprising smaller aircraft of the type A320, B737, etc. with 150/200 seating capacity.

“These aircraft, used mostly by low-cost carriers, could be called bestsellers,” he observed.

Undeterred by two major accidents recently involving Boeing MAX aircraft, the IAG Leasing Co. purchased several aircraft of this type for a total value of roughly $20 billion.

“So, I think there is some trepidation but growth continues because demand is growing.”

Differentiating the product emphasis between the Paris show and the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA), Naguib said LIMA focused, mainly, on military aircraft, though its commercial aviation segment is growing.

Malaysia is at the crossroads where the global economy is evolving rapidly with the Industry 4.0 concept is taking over and changing the paradigm of manufacturing and services.

“Malaysia is in a strategic growth region and has a potential leadership role to play provided it can embrace and lead in capabilities which are necessary for competition, and in areas such as technology and innovation,” he said. – Bernama