Airbus and Malaysia have been strategic partners for more than 40 years, dating back to Malaysia Airlines’ order of the original A300B4 wide-body jetliner. Since then, the country has become a key customer base for Airbus in the Asia-Pacific region across the company’s products in the commercial aircraft, defence, space and helicopter sectors. Beyond the sales successes, Airbus also has developed strong industrial partnerships with Malaysia that have brought multiple benefits to the country’s economy.
Airbus is the largest international partner for the Malaysian aerospace industry, with its sourcing and services businesses in the country valued at some $400 million (U.S.) annually for the local economy as of 2019. The company’s activities sustain employment for over 4,000 Malaysians in the country’s fast-growing aviation sector. With Malaysia as the largest supplier base for Airbus in Southeast Asia, this country’s aerospace firms produce aerostructures and components that are used across the company’s product lines.
Airbus also has set up maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) and training facilities in the country, and is involved in Malaysian research and technology (R&T) activities.
In August 2019, the airline ordered 30 A321XLRs, the new extra long-range variant of the Airbus single-aisle family. This latest order strengthened the wider AirAsia Group’s position as the world’s largest airline customer for the A320 Family, having now ordered a total of 622 aircraft.
AirAsia has taken delivery of 226 A320 Family aircraft directly from Airbus as of August 2019. These are operated by its flagship Malaysian airline as well as its affiliates around the region in India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan and Thailand.
AirAsia X, the long-haul low-cost affiliate of the AirAsia Group, received 36 Airbus A330 wide-body airliners as of late 2019. These were in service with AirAsia X’s flagship Malaysian branch, as well as its unit in Thailand, and operate on services to points within the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East.
This relationship began in 2007, when AirAsia X signed a contract for 15 A330-300s and subsequently increased the order to 31. Seven years later, the airline ordered 55 of the updated A330neo aircraft and converted 11 of its earlier A330-300 orders to this newer variant. In August 2019, the airline ordered 12 more A330neo from Airbus for a total of 78 aircraft.
AirAsia X placed a firm order with Airbus in 2009 for 10 A350 XWBs to further develop its future network. The airline has selected the A350-900 variant of the all-new wide-body, which will be configured to seat around 400 passengers in its layout.
From its base in Subang, Airbus Helicopters Malaysia offers services including the sale and distribution of helicopter products and services, as well as maintenance, overhaul and modification work, logistics support, ground handling and hangarage. In 2018, Malaysia was appointed Airbus’ regional MRO Hub for Asia-Pacific as well as the region’s delivery centre.
Subang also is the location of Airbus Helicopters Malaysia Simulation Centre, a joint-venture with Boustead Heavy Industries Corporation that houses the region’s only training simulator for the H225 and H225M rotorcraft.
Malaysia was the first export nation for Airbus’ A400M airlifter, and the Royal Malaysian Air Force took delivery of its fourth aircraft in 2017. This allowed the service to become the first operator to stand up a full A400M squadron. The RMAF has since become a highly experienced operator of this new-generation airlifter, which it has deployed on various missions – including support for humanitarian work in the region.
In the space segment, Airbus delivered MEASAT-3b, the largest satellite ordered by the Malaysian communications sector, in 2014. Operated by Malaysia’s MEASAT, this satellite supports demand for video and data services across Malaysia, India, Indonesia and Australia.
Malaysia is one of Airbus’ main industrial partners in Asia, and every Airbus aircraft flying across the globe today has parts produced in Malaysia.
CTRM is one of the world’s top-five suppliers of composite structures to Airbus. It provides a complete range of manufacturing expertise, most notably the production of wing components for the A320 Family, the A350 XWB and the A380; nacelles for the A350 XWB; various aerostructures for the A400M military airlifter; and the H130 helicopter’s Fenestron.
One of Airbus’ earliest industrial partners in Malaysia is SME Aerospace. Since 1998, it has been manufacturing wing components for the A320 Family, the A330 Family, the A380 and the A350 XWB. It also manufactures parts for Airbus helicopters. Another key partner is Spirit Aerosystems Malaysia, which assembles various wing components for the A320 Family and the wide-body A350 XWB.
Strand Aerospace Malaysia is engaged in engineering services, carrying out design and certification analysis of aircraft structures across almost all Airbus family types, including the A320 Family, A330, A350 XWB, A380 and A400M. Strand also supports the company’s suppliers in Malaysia in the design and certification of such parts as the A380 underwing panels as well as new toolsets for the A320 and the A350 XWB.
In 2016, Airbus underscored its continued support to the development of Malaysia’s aerospace industry with the selection of SDMK Sdn Bhd as one of its global suppliers for jigs. SDMK reproduces large assembly jigs for the repair of composite aircraft rudders and elevators for the A320 and A330 programmes.
Airbus has also increased its industrial footprint in Malaysia with the expansion and acquisition of Sepang Aircraft Engineering (SAE) and the establishment of an Airbus Customer Services Centre.
SAE, an Airbus subsidiary, is an independent aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) service provider approved by the EASA European airworthiness authority and specialising in Airbus single-aisle airliners. SAE has two hangars with a combined floor area of some 50,000 square metres. The first hangar can accommodate up to six single-aisle jetliners or two wide-bodies, while the second hangar is sized to accept two A320s at the same time for major maintenance checks.
In 2019, an Airbus agreement to further develop its industrial presence in Malaysia included the expansion of SAE with the construction of a new hangar capable of accommodating four single-aisle or two wide-body aircraft for heavy checks, as well as the addition of new paint and component repair shops. These facilities will be ready to incorporate the latest smart technologies, including data analysis and planning using the Airbus Skywise digital platform and automated inspection techniques.
The Airbus Malaysia Customer Services facility, fully owned by Airbus, is situated adjacent to SAE. It is an expansion of the manufacturer’s global network of offices providing 24/7 specialised major aircraft engineering and repair services.
Airbus is a founding partner in the Aerospace Malaysia Innovation Centre (AMIC) along with the Malaysian government, CTRM and Rolls-Royce. AMIC was established in 2011 to develop skills and resources in strategic areas as well as to encourage aerospace research and technology activities in areas that include sustainable aviation and the MRO sector. As part of Airbus’ 2019 agreement for the further development of its Malaysian industrial presence, the company decided to appoint an Innovation Technical Director to support this non-profit organisation and increase its funding for joint research programmes – to include research at AMIC into the potential production of alternative and sustainable aviation biofuels in Malaysia.
In another element of the 2019 industrial presence agreement, Airbus committed to establishing the Airbus Malaysia Digital Initiative. For this, the company will work with local stakeholders to develop a master plan and select and perform dedicated projects to enhance the competitiveness of the Malaysian aerospace sector through the application of new digital technologies. The initiative also will contribute to the alignment of Malaysian industrial partners with new processes and systems being introduced by Airbus across its manufacturing and supply chains.