Vector Aerospace has become the latest aviation company to set up shop in Singapore's Seletar Aerospace Park, writes Colin Baker
Vector Aerospace has broken ground on a new engine facility in Singapore's Seletar Aerospace Park (SAP) that is being specially built for the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150A engine. This will be the Canadian company's first facility in south-east Asia, and its first green field build in the Asia-Pacific region.
It will also be one of only three designated overhaul facilities (DOF) worldwide for the PW150 engine that powers the Bombardier dash 8 Q400. The others are Pratt & Whitney Canada's own facility in Quebec, and Lufthansa A.E.R.O near Frankfurt, Germany.
The Singapore operation, which is expected to receive in first engine around September/October next year, will consist of a 5,200 m2 "state-of-the-art" facility, equipped with full engine overhaul and test capability. The total land area is 8,000m2.
The company is investing more than S$50 million (US$40 million) in this facility, including tooling and equipment and when fully operational, it will employ up to 140 employees in a variety of repair, test, engineering, commercial and support roles.
"In addition, the facility is ideally situated to expand its products, capacity and services in the longer term," says Declan O'Shea, president & CEO of Vector Aerospace.
He notes that there is plenty to do before the facility opens. "We have to get the test cell built, correlated and approved, get air worthiness certificates, tools and test equipment down here as well as staff to run it."
Vector Aerospace Asia will have its own P&L and will be under the helm of general manager Philip Ang - whose career includes a spell as managing director of Eagle Services ASIA (a joint venture between SIA Engineering (SIAEC) and Pratt & Whitney that he helped set up). He has also been P&W's director, sales & strategy for the Asia-Pacific region and vice president of SIAEC's heavy maintenance division.
After receiving its DOF for the PW150 last year, Vector Aerospace started scouting for a site in south-east Asia, before settling on Singapore. "The attractions are its location - it's easy to get in and out of and it's easy to get engines in and out. It also has a well trained and qualified workforce and a very established aerospace background," says O'Shea.
"JTC [Jurong Town Corporation, the developer of SAP] and the EDB [Economic Development Board] market themselves and Singapore very well," he adds. Another factor was being located in the middle of the world's main growth market for aerospace. "There was clearly a gap in terms of location," he says.
O'Shea admits that labour is an issue, but no more than in other parts of the world. "Talk to any CEO in the MRO sector and they say same thing, where ever they are on the planet. It's the same at our sites in Vancouver and the UK, but we seem to be able to attract quality people."
This was one of the advantages of setting up in Singapore. "We know the quality of workforce is here, we just have to attract them. Whereas if you look at other countries in the region, we would have had to grow that quality ourselves."
Ang adds that the company is looking at a "two pronged approach" for its labour force, tapping into the local pool of experienced talent, as well as local schools, institutions. There will be programmes targeting the educational establishments, he adds.
Vector will also be sending people from Singapore to its Prince Edward Island facility in Canada for training - the latter is handling PW150 engines at the moment while the Singapore facility is being set up. "This will help with the start up," notes Ang.
The Singapore site is next door to Eurocopter South East Asia, but this is pure coincidence says O'Shea. "We ended up here just because of what was available at the time," he says. Eurocopter, a subsidiary of Airbus parent EADS, brought Vector Aerospace in 2011, and a significant part of latter's business is in the helicopter sector.
O'Shea estimates that the installed base of PW150 engine in the Asia-Pacific region is around 100 units, and will be double that in ten years time. Worldwide, there are around 380-to-390 units, and again O'Shea expects to see a significant increase.
O'Shea doesn't give a prediction for annual engine throughput, but says. "There are three facilities handling the PW150 around the world. I'm not saying we're going split into three - but if we did that, that would give you an indication of size."
Vector is aiming for turnaround time (TAT) target, depending on work scope, of 45 days once the facility is fully up and running, says Ang.
O'Shea emphasises the company's "lean" culture, and adds that proximity to customers is important. "We will be only licensee in the region," he notes.
Q400 operators in the region include Air Nippon Network and Japan Air Commuter, regional offshoots of ANA and JAL, respectively. Others include PAL Express in the Philippines, QantasLink in Australia, Spicejet in India and Uni Air in Taiwan. O'Shea hopes that the proximity factor will see these come to Singapore for their engine servicing needs, although he emphasises that the PW150 licence is worldwide.
Vector brought the Pratt & Whitney Canada's facility in Brisbane, Australia last year, which specialises in the PT6A engine that powers turboprops including the Cessna Caravan, King Air and Pilatus PC-12.
O'Shea doesn't rule out further expansion in the region, including China, at some point in the future, but says that the company has got quite enough on its plate for the time being. As well as the Singapore operation, Vector is also renovating a facility just outside of Sao Paolo, Brazil. This will not be doing overhaul, at least not for the time being, and will be dedicated to engines and helicopters.
Vector is also in the process of setting up two leasing companies in Ireland - one for aircraft and one for engines.
Vector Aerospace is a Canada-based MRO provider providing support for turbine engines, helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and components. It employs approximately 2,700 people in 21 locations across Canada, the USA, the UK, France, South Africa, Kenya, Australia and Malaysia.
It has around 1.7 million sq ft (160,000 sq m) of hanger and shop floor space to support 3,000 customers worldwide. Its customer base includes regional airlines, commercial transportation providers, corporate flight departments, private operators, government agencies and defence departments.
Vector Aerospace technicians provide a broad range of MRO services, covering turbine engines (turbofans, turboprops and turboshafts), dynamic components (including gearboxes, driveshafts and rotorheads), structures (including cabins, tailbooms and pylons), composites and avionics (including glass cockpits and airframe rewiring), fuel systems and components. It also undertakes conversions, modifications and refurbishments for helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, offering a comprehensive portfolio of in-house supplemental type certificates (STCs).
In addition to traditional MRO support, its capabilities also extend to mission-focused services such as helicopter leasing (including the Eurocopter AS332L Super Puma heavy twin), fleet management, by-the-hour support, rental engines and training.
Vector Aerospace holds approvals from some of the world's leading companies including General Electric, Pratt & Whitney Canada, Rolls-Royce, Turbomeca, AgustaWestland, Boeing, Eurocopter, Sikorsky, Rockwell Collins, Sagem Avionics, Honeywell and many other well-known suppliers.
Products supported include the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6T, PT6A, JT15D, PW100, PW307 and PW308A series engines; Rolls-Royce M250; Rolls-Royce T56/501D;Turbomeca Arriel 1 and Arriel 2; General Electric T58 / CT58 and CT-7A / T700 engines; Honeywell TFE731 and Honeywell ALF 502/LF507 (all engine lines include complete test capability); dynamic components, full-service avionics capability; up to and including glass cockpit engineering, development and integration, complete aircraft rewires, as well as airframes and major inspections support for a variety of Eurocopter, Sikorsky, Boeing and AgustaWestland helicopter models.