Captain Izham Ismail

SEPANG: With the completion of the first third party maintenance job for Singapore Airlines’ (SIA) aircraft, Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) is confident of making its maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) business great again as it re-enters the market after a hiatus of almost four years.

The national carrier, then widely known as MAS, ceased the MRO operations in 2015, and is now hoping to seize opportunities inherent in the sector and race to be the leading MRO service provider in this region.

Speaking to Bernama recently, Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG) chief executive officer Captain Izham Ismail said the decision to re-involve in the MRO sector was due to ample opportunities and prospects inherent in the airline industry.

This, he said, was in line with the Malaysia Aerospace Industry Blueprint 2030, in which the government had identified the aerospace industry as one of the strategic sectors with very high growth potential.

Captain Izham Ismail

“We were very heavily involved in MRO services in the old company, which is MAS. It was a decision made then that we stopped all MRO operations but I felt very strongly that two years ago, this is a very important service that Malaysia Airlines could participate in.

“(This is) especially so in a growing Asia-Pacific region where there’s a lot of aircraft that are being ordered and 40 per cent of the world’s aircraft order is coming to the Asia-Pacific region. This is an opportunity that Malaysia Airlines should take advantage of,” he said.

Izham said for the last two years, Malaysia Airlines’ engineering division had been working very hard to get approval from the regulatory body in order for the team to prepare and be ready to service foreign aircraft.

Sharing the success story on how the team managed to deliver their MRO service for the first foreign aircraft, namely SIA’s jumbo jet A380, Izham said it was a testament to the team’s capabilities.

“The 380-maintenance programme that we have embarked on and been certified is a testament to the trust given to us by SIA and I thanked them for giving us this opportunity. MAG is so happy, we just completed our first foreign aircraft maintenance and repair job on third party airline,” he said.

Izham said the team was in contact with many other airlines for them to bring their aircraft to Malaysia Airlines’ MRO facilities.

Although reluctant to open up on the potential customers, Izham said: “It is in the negotiations stage…domestic and international (airlines). We are positive of (being able) to seal contracts with other foreign aircraft.”

He said the airline industry was very competitive and it was very important for airlines to collaborate not only in code sharing but also in maintenance and repair jobs as well.

“MRO is actually a very high-cost intensive activity. So airlines all over the world look at the best and most efficient way to manage and maintain the planes and Malaysia Airlines’ engineering is one of the engineering facilities in this region that can service the 380 aircraft.

“We, ourselves have done heavy maintenance for our own 380 fleet. We have been doing this for the last six years,” he said, adding the group has two hangars at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) which maintains the airline’s 112 aircraft.

On whether the group has enough space at its hangar to offer third party maintenance services, Izham said the utilisation of the hangar space was taken into account during the planning.

“At the two hangars that we have in KLIA, the total capacity that we are using is probably 60 per cent, so we have about 40 per cent capacity available to do foreign airlines,” he said, adding the MRO service for third party was an opportunity for the group to drive non-passenger revenue.

Malaysia Airlines was once a formidable player in the MRO market, serving more than 100 airline customers at the peak of its operations with several certifications, including from the Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency. – Bernama