Renowned as one of the world’s leading MRO providers, Saudia Aerospace Engineering Industries is playing a key role in furthering the Kingdom’s airborne ambitions
Writer: Jonathan Dyble
Project Manager: Thomas Arnold
A defining year in history during a period synonymous with both division and unity, 1945 is best known in global timelines as the end of the Second World War.
Alongside the global destruction, it was a year that marked concerted efforts to strengthen global ties and relations in the aim of preventing any future breakdowns of such scale ever again. These efforts applied to all nations, with one such example prevalent in the warming relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the United States.
King Abul Aziz ibn Saud, renowned as the founder of the modern Saudi State, presented then US President Franklin D. Roosevelt with brightly coloured camel’s hair robes, hand painted perfume bottles, a gold dagger set with diamonds, and other gifts to extend the Kingdom’s hand of friendship.
In return, Roosevelt provided the Middle Eastern country with a DC-3 passenger plane – an aircraft that marked the beginning of Saudi Arabia’s ventures into air travel.
Impressed by the DC-3, the king quickly purchased numerous additional aircraft that led to the formation of Saudi Arabia Airlines (Saudia) in September 1946, with the country’s first international flight taking off for Jerusalem in that same year.
Since this time, Saudia has expanded exponentially to become not only the national carrier of KSA, but equally the largest airline in the Middle East, aiding the transportation needs of more than 32 million passengers every year.
Crucial to the historic success of this expansion from 1959 onwards has been Saudia Aerospace Engineering Industries (SAEI), formerly known as Technical Services Division prior to the privatisation of Saudia in 2009.
A company that is wholly-owned by Saudia itself, SAEI stands as one of the world’s leading full-service maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) players, fittingly headquartered at the King Abdul Aziz International Airport, 19 kilometres north of Jeddah.
Staying one step ahead
Overseeing SAEI is Ali Al Ashban, the organisation’s current CEO and figurehead tasked with achieving the firm’s overriding goal of becoming the leading MRO service provider of high-quality aircraft, engines and components in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
“I would describe SAEI as a leading enterprise in aviation maintenance that places unwavering attention on its clients’ needs, and provides its employees with challenging and future orientated career opportunities,” states Ashban. “Ultimately, this focus defines our mission, shapes our commitment and strengthens our values.”
Serving as the technical arm to Saudia, SAEI has been able to simultaneously enjoy stellar growth for many decades, owed to its dynamic
and successful approach, moving rapidly, efficiently and cost-effectively to provide any industry service.
By monitoring the latest trends, remaining adept with the latest technologies and adapting accordingly, the company has been able to position itself as a one-stop shop for all MRO needs within the aerospace industry.
“Because we strive to stay a step ahead of the evolving needs of our clients, we emphasise excellence in the firm’s core practice areas and industry capabilities while equally aiming to grow in priority markets throughout the MENA region,” Ashban reveals.
“To this end, SAEI is solidly positioned for future growth. Each and every member of our firm is as proactive and innovative as the times demand and our clients require.”
Backed up by almost 60 years’ experience and a workforce of more than 4,500 highly-trained professionals, SAEI provides a broad array of MRO services throughout the civil and military segments, not only to Saudia internally, but organisations globally.
“Operating out of our main base in Jeddah, we accommodate both narrow-body aircraft and wide body aircraft, such as the Airbus 320, Airbus 330, Boeing 787 and Boeing 777,” explains Ashban.
Since its relocation to the King Abdul Aziz International Airport, the firm has come to categorise its offerings in five key MRO segments that include line maintenance, aircraft maintenance, component maintenance, engine maintenance and supplementary services.
These full maintenance services are extensive across these categories, providing engine services, components, airframe MRO service and supply chain solutions.
“SAEI has been the right technical arm of Saudia that provides its full maintenance support to the Saudia fleet, the firm’s affiliates and several other major local, regional and international airlines,” explains Ashban.
“In today’s challenging world, we are committed to help our clients identify successful solutions, reduce risk and maximise opportunities. We value each and every one of our trusted partnerships in the highest esteem.”
It is this proactive approach that has been fundamental to continual success of SAEI, a culture that is further evident in the company’s ongoing expansions at the Aziz Abdul International Airport.
With work having begun following an agreement between Saudia, SAEI and a consortium of international consultants represented by Dar Al Handasa in March 2010, the construction of a new state-of-the-art 900,000 square metre facility on the northeast side of the airport is nearing its completion, with the site set to further revolutionise SAEI’s MRO capabilities.
Housing 11 aircraft hangars, eight aircraft maintenance shops, 27 aircraft component shops, three technical laboratories, modern warehouses and a design and manufacturing centre, amongst countless other facilities, it will be a staunch upgrade on SAEI’s existing headquarters, as Ashban explains. “With the current site now 30 years old, the two hangars and 32,000 square metres of combined aircraft maintenance shops and component shops are quickly becoming satisfactory to demands in comparison to our ongoing growth,” he states.
“With the new 904,000 square metre site set to have four times as many hangars, 77,000 square metres of aircraft maintenance space and 88,823 square metres of component shop room, our capabilities will be substantially bolstered.”
Despite being SAEI’s flagship project, the state-of-the-art site constitutes just one part of SAEI’s extensive investment strategy that spans the company’s sweeping product and service portfolio. Ashban continues: “SAEI is focusing on its ‘game changer’ as the new facility will facilitate a leading edge to its services, and is also focusing on process improvement, safety culture and selective partnerships in different areas such as engine shop components and manufacturing.”
A visionary outlook
Having become a pillar of aviation MRO since its inception in 1959, SAEI aims to maintain the same adaptable strategies and philosophies that have helped establish its esteemed global reputation as it moves into a milestone 60th anniversary year in 2019.
Continuing to pursue its vision of becoming the leading MRO service provider of high-quality aircraft engines and components in the MENA region, SAEI will equally play a crucial role in helping achieve KSA’s 2030 vision of localising its aerospace and defence industries through continual innovation.
“By combining the newest facilities with the latest technologies on the market, we’re quickly working towards becoming a leading MRO provider for the region,” states Ashban.
“We pride ourselves not only on delivering for our clients, but equally the role we’re able to play in furthering this national agenda.”
He concludes: “By being customer orientated, contributing to the growth of the Kingdom’s aerospace industry and achieving a stable rate of growth for our shareholders, 2019 will likely continue to bear fruits for SAEI, our people and the nation.”