By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter
DEMAND for aircraft maintenance in the Philippines is “growing strongly” as the airline industry sees a recovery in travel, according to Dornier Technology, an aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) company.
“We see the recovery in the commercial airline industry as a very positive development because, as airlines put their aircraft back into operation, it increases demand for both base maintenance (heavy maintenance) as well as line maintenance,” Nikos Gitsis, newly appointed chief executive officer of Dornier Technology, told BusinessWorld in an e-mail interview.
“We see demand for line maintenance growing strongly at Manila airport and other popular destinations such as Kalibo, Caticlan (Boracay), Bohol, and Davao,” he added.
Dornier Technology’s operations in the Philippines are headquartered at Clark International Airport.
Mr. Gitsis said the domestic travel market is posting a solid recovery, particularly on the Boracay route, which the company expects to return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year.
“We are now also starting to see the Philippines outbound international market recover. We believe the recovery in the international market will start slowly but will very likely gain momentum as the current opening up and improved environment takes hold, especially for the Philippines’ destinations that are popular with international tourists.”
He said the MRO industry’s main challenges in the Philippines involve “Airport space and costs,” which he described as “major hurdle.”
“Government and airport operators should encourage investment in the aviation MRO sector because MRO businesses create highly technical, well-paying jobs,” he added.
Mr. Gitsis said that while manpower remains a challenge, “Filipinos in particular are well-trained and exposed to the industry internationally, and we are encouraging those expatriates or OFWs in Asia and the Middle East to come home again and help build up the industry here.”
He said the company has been targeting Filipinos with years of service overseas in aerospace maintenance jobs.
MRO base maintenance requires substantial investment in tooling, facilities, and expertise to meet the requirements of customers and regulators.
“Scalability comes in large blocks, and financing is also a challenge in an industry that awards work on a year-by-year basis. There are few long-term contracts with operators. For an independent MRO such as ours, however, after many years reaching this point, the basis of our ongoing success is continual feedback on customer requirements, and methodically moving to provide those,” Mr. Gitsis said.
Dornier Technology is certified by the civil aviation regulators of the Philippines, South Korea and Indonesia. The certification allows it to maintain aircraft registered in these countries.
The company aims to be certified by more countries, including those in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or markets within four hours’ flight time from the Philippines.
It hopes to be certified by regulators in Taiwan, China, Australia and Pacific-island nations such as Papua New Guinea.
“The Philippines is ideally positioned as a center for aircraft maintenance in the Asia-Pacific region, because (it) has a pool of skilled and qualified aircraft technicians and engineers. The Philippines is also cost competitive,” Mr. Gitsis said.
“Because the commercial aviation sector has suffered through this pandemic, we are highlighting to our price-sensitive customers the capabilities of the Philippines along with the lower man hour costs that we have here,” he added.
“The Philippines, including Clark airport, are centrally located, making us an ideal location for customers from around Asia-Pacific to bring their aircraft for airframe heavy checks.”