Malaysia’s Aerospace Industry is Growing & Needs Qualified Graduates
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From commercial aviation to aircraft parts manufacturing MRO, aerospace is a strategic industry for Malaysia. In 2019, revenue from manufacturing and MRO raked in an estimated RM18 billion and provided jobs for 26,000 skilled workers.
Malaysia is the second-largest aerospace market in Southeast Asia and the largest aero structures manufacturer in the region, with a long established design and build capability.
Local players UMW Aerospace Sdn Bhd, Upeca Aerotech Sdn Bhd, Strand Aerospace Malaysia Sdn Bhd, SME Aerospace Sdn Bhd and CTRM Aero Composites Sdn Bhd are Tier-1 companies that supply parts to global original equipment manufacturers.
Malaysia — or more specifically Selangor — is an MRO hub in Southeast Asia, with players such as Airbus-owned Sepang Aircraft Engineering Sdn Bhd, which acts as the centre for in-service engineering issues for the region, covering customers from as far as the Middle East and India.
Malaysia’s aerospace industry is one of the rapidly growing industries in the country, energised by the implementation of the National Aerospace Industry Blueprint 2030. With over 230 companies involved in the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), aero-manufacturing, education and training, systems integration, as well as engineering and design activities, the industry is growing at an average of 5% for the past ten years.
As of June 2019, the approved projects in the aerospace sub-sector recorded investments worth RM15.1 billion. Of these, foreign investments represented 71.1% or RM10.7 billion, while the remaining 28.9% were from domestic sources. These approved investments continue to generate highly skilled jobs and develop an ecosystem of suppliers in the country.
Some notable local aerospace companies which have established themselves as part of the global supply chain include UMW Aerospace, SME Aerospace, CTRM Aero Composite, Asia AeroTechnic and Airod. Malaysia is also home to supporting aerospace companies such as IAC Manufacturing, Asahi Aero Malaysia, Micron Concept Aerostructures and Morrissey Integrated Dynamics.
Malaysia offers comprehensive infrastructure for industry players. At present, the country has several aerospace parks namely, Subang Aerotech Park, KLIA Aeropolis, UMW High-Value Manufacturing Park, Senai Airport Aviation Park, Nusajaya Tech Park and Kulim Hi-Tech Park. These parks provide investors with a choice of ready-built facilities or land plots for customised developments to ease the realisation of investments within the country.
Based on a study by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) in 2017, the Malaysian aerospace industry labour force comprises of 3,695 employees in composites, 2,710 employees in manufacturing, 1,470 employees in avionics and 269 employees in special processing that supports the industry. These numbers have been consistently growing, and the demand for qualified workforce in the industry has not gone unnoticed.
From the information above, you can see that the Malaysian government has invested in the Aerospace industry and has seen immense growth in the past decade. This information is important as it is evidence for students to be able to see that there will be jobs in Malaysia’s aerospace industry and the action that they need to take is to choose the right courses that will enable them to work in this industry.
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Which are the Top Engineering Courses that will Enable Graduates to Find Work in Malaysia’s Aerospace Sector?
An Aerospace Engineer is a professional who designs and tests prototypes for aircraft and spacecraft.
Aerospace Engineers design aircraft, spacecraft, missiles, and other airborne equipment. They create prototypes of these designs as well as conduct testing on them. In addition, they may evaluate the designs of other engineers to ensure that the idea meets certain ethical, safety, and environmental standards. It is not unusual for Aerospace Engineers to oversee the building process as well, ensuring that proper deadlines are met. Typically, Aerospace Engineers specializes in either aeronautical or astronautical design, which will determine whether they work with aircraft or spacecraft.
Students interested in a career in Aerospace Engineering should have a strong understanding of materials, mathematics, science, thermodynamics, mechanics, robotics, aerodynamics, production methods, and potential safety and functionality problems and solutions. Additionally, excellent research, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills.
Other than degrees in aeronautical or aerospace engineering, employers may accept relevant courses such as:
- Electrical & Electronic Engineering
- Electronic Engineering (Nanotechnology)
- Mechatronic Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
- Diploma in Aircraft Maintenance
To be a successful aerospace engineer, you should have an aptitude for mechanics, science, math, and computers. You should be thorough, creative, communicative, and technical.
What do Aerospace Engineers Do?
Aerospace Engineers develop designs, test and modify air and spacecraft, and review and repair existing aircraft. The aerospace engineer will assist in drafting proposals for innovative new air and spacecraft designs, help test materials and prototypes, investigate part or product failures and damage, and develop innovative new products, parts, and materials. You may also take part in research and help create specialized production processes or facilities.
A career in aerospace engineering will see you working with cutting-edge technology and international companies
As an aerospace engineer you’ll research, design, develop, maintain and test the performance of:
- civil and military aircraft
- space vehicles
- weapons systems
Work is also carried out on the different components that make up the aircraft and systems. In some companies you may be known as an aeronautical engineer.
You’ll be concerned with improving flight safety, fuel efficiency, speed and weight, as well as reducing system costs and using developing technologies to meet customer needs. The role increasingly addresses the environmental impact of air travel.
Types of aerospace engineers
You can specialise in a particular area such as:
- materials and structures
- systems integration
What are the Job Responsibilities of an Aerospace Engineer?
Tasks vary depending on your specialist area and employer, but you may be required to:
- Apply the principles of science and technology to create aircraft, components and support equipment
- Research and develop design specifications and use computer-aided design (CAD) software to create plans
- Supervise the assembly of airframes and the installation of engines, instruments and other equipment
- Take part in flight-test programmes to measure take-off distances, rate of climb, stall speeds, manouverability and landing capacities
- Resolve issues that arise during the design, development and testing processes
- Maintain aircraft for full operation including making regular inspections, maintenance, repairs and servicing
- Measure and improve the performance of aircraft, components and systems
- Modify designs to improve safety features or minimise fuel consumption and pollution
- Investigate aircraft accidents
- Collate information, interpret data and publish the results of specific projects in technical report form
- Communicate technical and regulatory advice to clients, teams, suppliers and other professionals within the aerospace industry.
- Using mathematics, scientific, and engineering principles to design, repair, and improve air and spacecraft, component parts, facilities, materials, safety regulations, and manufacturing processes.
- Researching and analyzing information to develop designs and solve problems.
- Testing aircraft, rockets, and spacecraft to find and correct potential problems and to ensure compliance with quality, safety, and functionality requirements.
- Designing and assembling control panels, propulsion systems, guiding systems, computer systems, and other necessary parts and systems.
- Reviewing, developing, and improving production methods, facilities, and safety regulations.
- Coordinating activities with production, research, testing, and other departments to optimize safety and efficiency.
- Developing safety and quality standards, budgets, and timelines and ensuring projects comply with these regulations.
- Writing design proposals, reports, manuals, and other technical documents.
- Assisting with special projects or providing technical advice.
- Staying current on industry developments, technology, materials, trends, and regulations.
Malaysia’s Robust Aerospace Sector – Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA)
Aerospace has been identified as a strategic industry for Malaysia. The industry, energised by the implementation of the National Aerospace Industry Blueprint 2030, has generated high skilled jobs and developed an ecosystem of suppliers in the country. In 2019, revenue from manufacturing and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) activities raked in an estimated RM18 billion and provided jobs for 26,000 skilled workers.
Malaysia’s strategic position and strong local supply chain have contributed to its position as a preferred location for many MRO companies. Over 230 aerospace-related companies have established operations here in the country. They are involved in (MRO), aero manufacturing, education and training, systems integration, and engineering and design activities. Notable players such as Airbus Helicopters, Airfoil Services, Sepang Aircraft Engineering and GKN Aerospace have leveraged on our skilled local competencies to serve their customers in this region. Our local industry champions include UMW Aerospace, CTRM, Aerospace Composites Malaysia (ACM) and Spirit Aerosystems Malaysia. These are among the top tier single-source suppliers to major global aerospace OEMs such as Airbus, Boeing and Rolls Royce.
Business Aviation–A New Growth Area
Business aviation is now becoming a new potential growth area to be explored as this sector is significantly expanding in the region. According to the report made by GlobeAir in comparing to commercial flights, flying private is 30 times less COVID-19 risky. With a minimal risk of infection and the ability to fly long distances, private aviation has proven to be a reliable choice among a wide variety of individuals, from the typical working-class to business people and government officials.
In commercial aviation, it is a two-way race between Airbus and Boeing. Meanwhile, in business aviation, the major OEMs competing in the region are Gulfstream, Bombardier, Dassault, Embraer, Cessna, Pilatus and HondaJet. Asian Sky Group estimated RM15.8 billion worth of new and used business jets or private jets were traded in the Asia Pacific region in 2019. From the same data source, the following graph indicates how OEMs performed in terms of the number of aircraft and market share in Malaysia for 2019:
OEMs assume a vital aspect of the ecosystem in business aviation. Apart from the operations and maintenance of business jets in the region, the industry has a significant characteristic that separates it from the commercial aviation industry, which is customisation and craftsmen. While commercial aircraft are mass-produced on the production line, business jets tend to be more handcrafted, especially for the interior of the aircraft. These require high-value craftsmen with skill sets in fine detailing and build-up engineering work, and could potentially be a key area of focus for growth in the region.
Nevertheless, while having many OEMs in the business aviation is an advantage, it is also a disadvantage. The main advantage is the variation of aircraft products and services that are available to owners and operators. However, this variation also provides complexities and challenges in terms of regulations, licensing and specialised competencies among engineers and technicians. For example, an engineer who is licensed to work on a Gulfstream aircraft may not be qualified to do repairs on a Bombardier aircraft; such is the regulatory compliant nature of the industry.
Major hubs for this sector include Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai, followed closely by Singapore in terms of business aviation aircraft movements. Notably, the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang has been trailing closely at around 3,500 aircraft movements, which is ahead of those in Macau and Bangkok. This city airport ecosystem, coupled with our strategic location and cost-competitiveness in terms of labour and infrastructure, has contributed to Malaysia becoming a strong competitor in this area. Based on the survey conducted by Frost and Sullivan in 2018, Subang Airport is the most favoured choice for the next business aviation hub in the region.
In Malaysia, Dassault Aviation has recognised the country’s industrial potential and acquired Malaysia’s largest business aviation MRO operation, ExecuJet. Malaysia has since become its biggest market in Southeast Asia, and they expect good prospects in the country and the surrounding region for its aircraft. In the manufacturing segment, Improvage Precision is an exemplary local company that supplies business jet seat components to major OEMs.
The business aviation sector is fast becoming a vital part of the aerospace industry in Malaysia. Besides MRO service providers, it has the potential to spur other supporting businesses such as Fixed Based Operators (FBOs), ground handlers, aircraft insurers and financing services, training institutions and also aircraft technical inspectors.
This sector can also be a potential revenue contributor to the government through highly efficient private aircraft registry which can be seen in tax haven locations such as in the Isle of Man, Guernsey, Malta and San Marino.
Nonetheless, the business aviation sector has not proven immune to the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. While this sector usually benefits from times of disruption when business travellers turn to private charters to fill the gaps left by restrictions on commercial aviation, the pandemic has also affected businesses. Given this, MIDA had an engagement with members of the Asian Business Aviation Association (AsBAA) Malaysia Chapter through a webinar on 10th June 2020 and a business workshop on 16th July 2020 led by Mr. Arham Abd. Rahman, Deputy CEO of MIDA. MIDA uses platforms such as this as an avenue for dialogue between industry players and government representatives to provide support and assistance during this unprecedented challenging time.
In mitigating the business impact of the pandemic, industry players need to review their strategy, industrial footprint and operating model to sustain their operations. A potential strategy for aerospace manufacturers to adapt to the ‘new normal’ is by re-examining their production technologies. Industry 4.0 technologies such as connected tools, Big Data, virtual reality and additive manufacturing could facilitate the stepping up of factories’ pace in increasing the operational effectiveness and flexibility of the entire production chain.
MIDA continues to support industry players through fiscal and non fiscal incentives to enable companies to invest in capability and technology development. Towards this end, they will be ready to take advantage of the increasing demand for aircraft once again when the industry recovers. MIDA’s engagement with the stakeholders has also helped to identify strategic initiatives that could help Malaysia to keep pace with other countries as well as to capture the upside growth of the aerospace sector which is a strategic enabler of future industries and technologies.