MTU: Success in Japan

Step by step, MTU Aero Engines is unlocking the Japanese market, which was sealed off for a long time. Deeper cooperation with the up-and-coming Solaseed Air is the latest success.

05.2015 | Text: Nicole Geffert

Text:
Nicole Geffert has been working as a freelance journalist covering topics such as research and science, money and taxes, and education and careers since 1999.

By the 1980s at the latest, Japan—the nation of 6,800 islands at Asia’s furthest eastern edge—had joined the ranks of the leading global economic powers. Its 125 million-plus inhabitants generate the third-highest GDP in the world, outpunching traditional in­dus­trial heavyweights such as Germany and the United Kingdom.

This economic power is also reflected in air travel. With 72.8 million passengers, Haneda Airport in Tokyo—the hub for the major Japanese airlines—is the world’s fourth busiest airport. According to data from the World Bank, airlines registered in Japan carried just shy of 106 million passengers in 2013. And although the market is largely saturated, the Japan Aircraft Development Corporation (JADC) predicts an average growth in passenger volume of 1.6 percent a year for the next 20 years. Accordingly, the aircraft market is dynamic at the moment. A year ago, the largest airline, All Nippon Airways (ANA), ordered 40 long-haul jets from Boeing and 30 medium-haul jets from Airbus all at once for a total of 16.6 billion US dollars.

More passengers and more aircraft also mean more maintenance. However, this busi­ness was reserved for domestic providers over many years—on top of the two largest airlines, which have their own shops, there is also the veteran IHI Corporation. Leo Koppers, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Sales at MTU Maintenance, knows all about the barriers: “Japan is a closed market that is scarcely accessible to providers from abroad.”

Nevertheless, in 2010 the Japanese Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) approved MTU Main­ten­ance Zhuhai to maintain engines. For the first time, a Japanese authority had cer­tified as top quality a relatively young company located in their big neighbor and com­peti­tor China. The Zhuhai plant had successfully specialized in CFM56 and V2500 engines. Later the same year, the Japanese industry leader ANA brought its first CFM56-3 to the shop and has been regularly using their maintenance expertise ever since.

ENGINE MAINTENANCE AT MTU MAINTENANCE ZHUHAI

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Inspection of a V2500.

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Inspection of a V2500.

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A high-pressure compressor is prepared for high-speed grinding.

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A high-pressure compressor is prepared for high-speed grinding.

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A CFM56-3 prior to a test run.

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A CFM56-3 prior to a test run.

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Engine casings await assembly.

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Engine casings await assembly.

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A CFM56-3 on the test stand.

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A CFM56-3 on the test stand.

One year later, a second Japanese customer came on board in the shape of Solaseed Air. Since 2011, the company with a jaunty smiley on the green tails of its aircraft has been entrusting the Zhuhai location with the repair of its fleet’s CFM56-3 engines. Solaseed Air, incorporated as Skynet Asia Airways Co. Ltd., has been serving des­tin­ations in the south of Japan since 2002. “Seed smiles in the sky” is its motto. Since then, its network has expanded to 62 flights a day on eight routes. The airline con­nects big cities on its home island of Kyushu with Tokyo, Kobe—which is located just a short distance from Japan’s second largest economic hub Osaka—and the subtropical vacation paradise of Okinawa.

Im Januar 2015 vertieften die beiden Unter­nehmen ihre Partner­schaft mit einem Exklusiv­vertrag über die Instand­haltung aller 24 CFM56-7B- und -7BE-Antriebe für die Boeing 737-800-Flotte der Airline. Solaseed Air-CEO Hiroshi Takahashi erklärte dazu: „Die MTU Maintenance hat sich als zuverlässiger und vertrauens­würdiger Partner mit einer heraus­ragenden Service­qualität erwiesen. Wir freuen uns, dass sich das Unter­nehmen nun auch um unsere neuesten Trieb­werks­modelle kümmert.“

Typical Japan Cherry blossoms, pagoda, and in the background Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest and holiest mountain. A stylized picture of the mountain adorns the cabin ceiling of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet.

In January 2015, the two companies deepened their partner­ship with an exclusive contract for the maintenance of all 24 CFM56-7B and -7BE engines for the airline’s Boeing 737-800 fleet. “MTU Maintenance has proved a reliable and trustworthy par­tner who delivers an outstanding service quality,” Solaseed Air CEO Hiroshi Takahashi explained. “We are delighted that the company will now also be looking after our latest engine models.” ANA’s decision to expand its cooperation with MTU also attests to how much the Japanese prize high quality and excellent service. Even though the air­line has its own shops, it has also been delivering engines to MTU’s German main­ten­ance location in Hannover-Langenhagen since the end of 2013. “JCAB certification for the maintenance of complete engines from Japanese customers is just around the corner,” says Jan Steenbock, Vice President, Marketing and Sales for Asia at MTU Maintenance.

At the same time, MTU is expanding its presence in Japan into other areas of business by means of two joint ventures with Japanese trading company Sumitomo (see Inside MTU, Leasing on the rise). Step by step, MTU is gaining a foothold in the Japanese market: It was a landmark in the country’s aviation history when in October 2014 the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) had its rollout in Nagoya. The new eco-friendly aircraft for up to 100 passengers is powered exclusively by the highly innovative PW1200G engines, which were developed with MTU participation.

Inside MTU Partnerships in Japan

MTU Maintenance’s breakthrough into the Japanese market came about in 2009 through a maintenance contract with All Nippon Airways (ANA). Maintenance of ANA’s engines has been carried out since then by MTU Maintenance Zhuhai in China, a 50:50 joint venture between MTU Aero Engines and the holding company of China’s largest airline, China Southern. Since 2011, Solaseed Air has also entrusted its engines to the expanding plant on China’s south coast.

In September 2013, MTU and the Japanese trading company Sumitomo Corporation founded two joint ventures: MTU Maintenance Lease Services and Sumisho Aero En­gine Lease.

Japan’s first commercial aircraft in decades, the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), had its rollout in October 2014 in Nagoya. MTU Aero Engines and the Japanese Aero Engine Corporation (JAEC) are among the partners involved in the aircraft’s PW1200G Geared Turbofan engine. JAEC is a joint venture that pools together the engine activities of Kawasaki, Mitsubishi and Ishikawajima Harima. The alliance was occasioned by the foun­da­tion of International Aero Engines (IAE) in 1983 with the objective of developing the V2500 for the A320 family together with four other partners. One of JAEC’s longstanding IAE partners is MTU Aero Engines.

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