MANILA, September 5, 2003  (STAR) By Des Ferriols  - Lufthansa Technik Philippines is going to double the Airbus overhauling capacity of its facility at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) as its European principal, Lufthansa Technik, moved its Airbus maintenance operations out of Hamburg, Germany to the Philippines.

LTP chairman Washington SyCip said the company is doubling its capacity following the success of its Airbus stripping operations.

SyCip told reporters yesterday that LTP had successfully trained its engineers and aircraft maintenance personnel and the company is planning to set up a training school that will allow it to export aircraft maintenance experts.

"Starting November, Lufthansa will be sending its Airbus here for overhauling and we will double our capacity in order to cope with the increase in traffic," SyCip said.

Lufthansa is the first European maintenance company to transfer a major business to Asia.

Asia is crucial to Lufthansa Technik’s strategy to be a major player in the overhaul of widebody airliners in the region. Heavy maintenance facilities for Boeing widebodies in Beijing and the A330/A340 in Manila would allow it to take advantage of low labor rates to win business not only in the region but worldwide.

According to SyCip, the Philippines has a distinct advantage over China because all the Airbus and Boeing manuals are in English. The proficiency of Philippine engineers in the language, he said, had made training easier, smoother and more cost-effective.

SyCip said that Lufthansa had originally invested a total of $200 million on its Philippine operations and had recently added another $10 million for the expansion of its maintenance operations.

SyCip said Airbus planes normally need to be overhauled every five to six years, a process that would take 45 days to complete. He said Lufthansa had been impressed with the high productivity levels they have achieved in their Manila hub.

With the expansion, SyCip said the LTP would be able to strip two widebodies every four days at peak production.

Lufthansa Technik Philippines is a 51-percent to 49-percent joint venture with MacroAsia Corp., which took over the maintenance operations of Philippine Airlines including its facilities for aircraft and engine maintenance, as well as component and aircraft overhaul.

Lufthansa also operates Lufthansa Technik Shenzhen Co., in Shenzhen, China, which it owns 70 percent. The operation was officially opened on Feb. 25 to service airframe-related components such as thrust reversers, engine cowls, and wheels and brakes.

The third-and oldest-facility of Lufthansa is AMECO Beijing, 40 percent owned by Lufthansa and 60 percent by Air China. AMECO has the largest maintenance hangar in Asia capable of accommodating four 747s simultaneously.

Lufthansa Technik said Asia is the most efficient area in which to set up heavy maintenance facilities for widebodies, as the cost of ferry flights for the large aircraft is more than offset by lower labor rates.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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