By AFIQ AZIZ / pic By ISMAIL CHE RUS
Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) plans to expand its aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) businesses by utilising three abandoned hangars owned by Khazanah Nasional Bhd near the Subang Skypark area.
Newly appointed Mara Corp chairman Akhramsyah Muammar Ubaidah Sanusi (picture) said the MRO expansion will be spearheaded by the state-owned agency’s aviation arm, Asia Aerotechnic Sdn Bhd (AAT).
He said the operations would kick off by the end of this year after receiving the necessary approvals, including the accreditation from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the US.
Akhramsyah said the accreditation submission to the US-based aircraft maintenance regulator was made before the end of last year.
“It has reached the final stage. We hope to get the approval by the first quarter (1Q) of this year because we need to inject some capital expenditure before it could be fully operational by the end of this year,” Akhramsyah told The Malaysian Reserve in a recent interview.
The hangars that would be the home of Mara’s new MRO project were closed some five years ago after MAS Aerospace Engineering Sdn Bhd (MAE) ceased its operations in Subang.
AAT then leased one of the buildings known as “Hangar 1”, which sits next to Subang Skypark Terminal.
MAE, meanwhile, was rebranded as MAB Engineering Services Sdn Bhd (MABE), and now concentrates on its own MRO services for the parent company Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Selangor.
Besides, AAT, Mara Corp also owns Mara Aerospace and Technologies Sdn Bhd, or M-AeroTech, that oversees the Asia Aerospace City (AAC) development in Subang.
Akhramsyah, however, did not elaborate on the terms Mara would formulate to utilise Khazanah’s abandoned hangars, and the detail of the services that would be provided.
“We expect to announce the details by the 2Q of this year,” he said.
Akhramsyah added that the move is part of the AAC revitalisation plan that was unveiled in 2015 which is expected to surpass RM1 billion and transform Subang Skypark and its surrounding area into a high-tech aviation hub.
AAC only saw the completion of its first stage in 2016, with the establishment of the new University Kuala Lumpur Malaysian Institute of Aviation Technology (UniKL MIAT) in Subang.
Prior to this, UniKL MIAT conducted its aerospace programme at the first campus in Sepang since 2002. However, its final year students had to go for their practical training in other airlines such as MAB and AirAsia Bhd since the university did not have any in-house avenue for such purposes.
The expansion of AAT would therefore ensure a healthy lifeline for the graduates.
“We wish to grow our aeronautical and MRO businesses, and continue to bridge the (gap between) education institutions and the industry.
“We are also talking to stakeholders like Khazanah and Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) on how we can collaborate and work on this,” he added.
Apart from Khazanah, MAHB is also developing its own Subang Aerotech Park, the neighbour to AAC which will spur the whole area in generating a huge aerospace industry.
Built over four decades from scratch when the then Malaysia Airlines System started operations in October 1972, MAB grew to encompass six hangars and carry a huge inventory of parts.
MABE, on the other hand, was once a world-renowned player in the MRO market, serving more than 100 airline customers at the peak of its operations with several certifications, including from FAA and European Aviation Safety Agency.
An industry analyst said MABE, which operated with some 4,000 workers in 2009, had generated a total of US$125 million (RM509 million) in annual revenue from the third party airlines — making it one of the largest MRO providers in the world.
“If we calculate, minus the holidays, all the hangars generated between six and seven million hours of work during that time.
“Mara could also reach that point if it is fully utilised. But the question is, can the AAT get enough quality manpower with the same hours?” the analyst said.
Mara is currently handing over most its commercial entities under Mara Corp upon due diligence processes, including UniKL’s 13 campuses around the country.
Akhramsyah said the exercise would help the company generate more highly-skilled technical workers that could fill up the huge market in the country’s aviation and aerospace sector, including at its Subang outlet.