Friday, March 27, 2009

Pilot training, MRO niche segments for Philippines in Asian aviation

MANILA, Mar 23, 2009  Pilot training and aircraft maintenance will emerge as niche segments for the Philippines in the Asian aviation industry, according to market research firm Frost & Sullivan.

?In Asia Pacific, there are requirements in pilot training and I?m not surprised if any of the investment is going to be in the Philippines, recruiting new cadets and giving them the training for PPL (private pilot license), CPL (commercial pilot license), or ATPL (airline transport pilot license) licensing,? Subhranshu Sekhar Das, Malaysia-based Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific director for aerospace & defense, said in a phone interview.

The Asia Pacific pilot training market became a $ 10-billion industry in 2008 with compound annual growth rate (CAGR) at 11 percent, according to Frost & Sullivan.

While the need for pilots has declined along with the slump in air travel due to the current global economic crisis, pilot requirements would be on the rise again by 2010, Das reported during the firm?s 2009 aviation summit held in Singapore earlier this month. The aviation industry as a whole has been experiencing a shortage of pilots, which drives the market for training, he added.

?There are close to 700 pilots in the Philippines but the demand is growing. They may have some shortage by 2013. So the pilot requirement will grow almost six percent CAGR,? he told PNA.

Frost & Sullivan data show that the country accounted for two percent of the total number of pilots in the Asia Pacific region last year.

This places the Philippines at the tailend of the market, along with Vietnam. The biggest source is China, with 37 percent, followed by India and Japan, with 12 percent market share each.

In 2008, Australia, Malaysia and South Korea each accounted for 6 percent; Thailand, 5 percent; New Zealand, Indonesia and Singapore, 4 percent each.

Aircraft maintenance business, known in the aviation industry as maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), is also emerging as another niche for the country.

In his summit presentation, Das said the commercial fixed wing segment of MRO business in Asia Pacific would continue to grow despite the economic crisis.

In 2008, Frost & Sullivan projected the region?s overall MRO business to have generated $ 22.55 billion in revenues.

It forecasts revenues to reach $ 66.58 billion by 2030, with the commercial fixed wing segment accounting for 54 percent of MRO business from 45 percent last year.

By 2030, the global consultancy firm expects diminished markets for the military rotary and fixed wing segments, as well as for civil rotary wing.

?Organically, the industry is growing in Asia Pacific so it is going to create opportunities for MRO industry, create opportunities for airport industry in terms of setting up the MRO facilities, in terms of pilot training, in terms general aviation and so on,? Das said in an interview.

?But it is difficult for us to be a leader in OEM (original equipment manufacturer) industry. We may get in this part of the world work as a component manufacturer or as an industry to supplement or complement to the integrated Europe and North America. But certainly in MRO industry, airport development, pilot training school and general aviation, a lot of opportunities for this part of the world including Philippines.?

Good MRO Performance

Among the US Federal Aviation Administration-certified repair stations in the country are FFC Services Asia-Pacific Operations and Honeywell Ceasa Subic Bay Co. Inc., both located at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone; International Aviation Service Assistance at the Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ); Moog Controls Corp. at the Baguio ecozone; Lufthansa Technik Philippines (LTP) headquartered at the MacroAsia Special Economic Zone of Villamor Airbase, with operations in Cebu, Clark and Davao; as well as Nordisk Aviation Services Phils. Corp. located in Parañaque City.

The 2008 performance of LTP, a joint venture between MacroAsia Corp. and Lufthansa AG initially formed to service the fleet of Philippine Airlines (PAL), boosts the positive outlook on MRO business in the Philippines.

In its Third Quarter 2008 report, MacroAsia noted that it managed to post a four-percent growth in consolidated net income for the period due largely to the 30 percent rise in LTP?s net income.

In its 2008 annual report presented March 12, Lufthansa Technik Group announced LTP revenues for the year at 160 million euros (equivalent to P10.6 billion).

Aviation Week, an industry magazine, noted in its report on the financial results that LTP was among the strongest revenue earners in the global network of the Lufthansa Technik Group last year, next only to Ameco Beijing, the latter?s joint venture with Air China, and N3 Engine Overhaul Services, the joint venture with Rolls Royce Plc.

According to MacroAsia, LTP is currently providing MRO services from its facility in NAIA to PAL, Lufthansa Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways and other international airlines that fly to Manila.

It also provides technical ground handling services to Air Niugini, China Airlines, Egypt Air, Eva Air, KLM Royal Dutch, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, Silk Air and Cathay Pacific Airways.

Regional Race

There is a race between Singapore and Malaysia to become the regional MRO hub, Das noted in his presentation. Currently, Singapore corners 90 percent of the region?s MRO business, he said.

Work is underway for the 300-hectare Seletar Aerospace Park in Singapore, which it touts to be a world-class industrial park for a wide range of aerospace activities, including MRO, OEM and training for pilots, aviation professionals and technical personnel. It is expected to be completed by 2018.

Meanwhile, Malaysia plans to transform itself into a global aerospace player by 2015 through its Malaysia International Aerospace Center being developed at the former Subang Airport.

Here in the Philippines, a 2,715-hectare Civil Aviation Complex is being developed at the CSEZ. The Clark International Airport Corp. announced last year two major locators at the Civil Aviation Complex. These were Kuwait Gulf and Link, which plans to build 125-hectare logistics park, and Singapore Airlines Engineering Co. (SIAEC), which will locate a 10-hectare MRO facility at the DMIA that will complement existing operations at Singapore?s Changi Airport.

?It?s all about the country strength and weaknesses and how they are going to position the country to create that environment. There are opportunities in the Philippines. It all depends on how the government is going to attract the investors to set up the industries,? Das said.

He added that big OEM integrators could also tap the Philippines for Tier 1 or Tier 2 components or parts manufacturing.

Other opportunities would also be presented by the massive airport development in China and India until 2020, which could generate design and build projects for Philippine contractors.

But he noted the country?s strongest suit remains with service-oriented segments of the aviation industry due to its skilled workforce and their English language proficiency.

?Manufacturing industries are definitely China and India. Singapore and Malaysia can drive the research and development in other high-tech jobs. The Philippines can probably continue MRO industries, pilot training schools or maybe create the general aviation potential for the other countries,? he said.

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