Airbus and Malaysia have been strategic partners for more than 40 years, dating back to Malaysia Airlines’ order of the original A300B4 widebody 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.
Malaysia is the largest supplier base for Airbus in Southeast Asia, with the country’s aerospace firms producing aerostructures and components throughout 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 research and technology (R&T) activities. Airbus’s sourcing and partnerships are worth $400 million per year for the local economy and sustain more than 4,000 Malaysian jobs.
Airbus is the leading supplier of civil aircraft to Malaysia. With a total of 727 jetliners ordered by airlines in the country as of 2018, Malaysia is Airbus’ third-largest market in the Asia-Pacific region – after China and India.
The relationship began in August 1978 when Malaysia Airlines placed its first order for the original A300B4, becoming one of Airbus’ earliest customers.
In 1989 and 1990, the carrier ordered 10 new twin-engine widebody A330-300s. Since the A330 entered service with Malaysia Airlines in 1995, it has become a proven and popular choice with passengers flying on its Asia-Pacific route network. The airline operated 15 A330-300s and six A330-200s in 2018. Additionally, its subsidiary MASkargo utilised three A330-200F freighters.
In 2012, Malaysia Airlines and Airbus marked a major milestone in their relationship when the carrier became a new A380 operator. Since its first aircraft’s service entry in June 2012, the carrier has taken delivery of six A380s, including the 100th A380 to be delivered by Airbus overall.
In September 2015, Malaysia Airlines signed a lease agreement with Air Lease Corporation to operate six A350-900 versions of the A350 XWB jetliner. The initial aircraft was delivered in November 2017, and a year later, the airline had six A350 XWBs in its fleet that operated primarily on its services to London.
AirAsia, the region’s largest low-cost carrier, became a new Airbus customer in March 2005, signing a contract for 60 A320s. It has since placed several repeat orders – including a mega-deal for 200 A320neo airliners at the 2011 Paris Air Show, and another for 100 A320s in December 2012. At the 2016 Farnborough Airshow, AirAsia signed a firm order for 100 A321neo jetliners, its first deal for the largest member of the best-selling A320 Family.
This brought the total number of A320 Family aircraft ordered by AirAsia to 592 (188 A320ceo, 304 A320neo and 100 A321neo airliners), reaffirming its position as one of the largest airline customers for the Airbus single-aisle product line.
AirAsia had taken delivery of 213 A320s directly from Airbus, including its first A320neo as of September 2016. These are operated by its flagship Malaysian airline as well as its affiliates around the region in India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.
AirAsia X, the long-haul low-cost affiliate of the AirAsia Group, operates a fleet of 20 Airbus A330 widebody airliners. These are in service with AirAsia X’s flagship Malaysian branch, as well as its units in Thailand and Indonesia, 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. It brought the operator’s total number of A330neo aircraft on order to 66. In July 2018, the carrier signed an agreement for another 34 A330neo versions, increasing its total orders for the type to 100 airliners.
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 widebody, which will be configured to seat around 400 passengers in its layout.
Airbus is a leader in Malaysia’s rotorcraft segment, with more than 100 helicopters in service in the country. This includes the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s (RMAF) fleet of multi-role H225Ms, the Royal Malaysian Navy’s AS555SN Fennec rotorcraft and the Royal Malaysian Police’s AS355 fleet. In the civil and parapublic segments, helicopters such as the AS365, H130, H135 and H145 are popular on missions including search and rescue, emergency medical services and passenger transport.
In 2002, the company set up its Airbus Helicopters Malaysia subsidiary to be closer to its customers. 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 widebody 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 widebodies, while the second hangar is sized to accept two A320s at the same time for major maintenance checks.
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.