Norwegian maintenance, repair and overhaul firm Scandinavian Aircraft Maintenance (SAM) is setting up a heavy maintenance base at an airport in Korat, central Thailand, with its off-shoot in Thailand, SAM Thai.
“SAM Thai was created to serve Asia with maintenance for fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters,” says SAM President and CEO Ole-Petter Monsbakken.
The company plans to provide line and heavy maintenance services in Thailand but is still waiting for regulatory approvals. It has been biding its time by getting contracts for work on aircraft parts and then having the work done at its facilities in Scandinavia.
Monsbakken says one way SAM Thai could move into line maintenance is to use Scandinavian Aircraft Maintenance’s EASA part-145 approval to win line maintenance work from European carriers operating to Thailand.
As for the heavy maintenance facility, SAM Thai has approval from the land owner, the Thailand department of civil aviation, to start construction at Korat Airport, Monsbakken says. But he adds that SAM Thai is waiting for approval from Thailand’s Board of Investments.
Monsbakken says SAM owns 49% of SAM Thai, and the other 51% is owned by Thai nationals in accordance with the country’s foreign ownership laws.
The plan is to build two hangars at Korat Airport, one for helicopters and one for fixed-wing, he says, adding that the fixed-wing facility will be able to accommodate one Boeing 747-400.
Korat’s runway can handle only aircraft as large as an Airbus A320 or Boeing 737, although the authorities plan to extend it to accommodate 747-400s, says Monsbakken. However, it is more likely that SAM Thai will initially focus on heavy checks for A320s and 737s, he says.
Monsbakken also says, “We will invest in an educational center [in Korat] for training pilots and technicians.”
SAM’s move into Thailand comes at a time when Thai Technical, the MRO firm of Thai Airways International, is struggling to take on third-party work because it is busy taking care of Thai Airways’ fleet.
But the Thai government has stated publicly it wants Thailand to be an MRO hub for Asia. There are also new airlines starting in Thailand, such as Jet Asia Airways, which plans to handle line maintenance in-house and outsource heavy maintenance either to ST Aerospace in Singapore or Guangzhou Aircraft Maintenance Engineering. Also, a startup called Crystal Thai Airlines plans to engage Global Engineering for line maintenance and Thai Aviation Industries for heavy maintenance.