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It’s “engagement” more than “investment”, says Malaysian minister of Boeing plane purchase

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Mustapa Mohamed: Criticisms of Boeing deal misplaced, misinformed. Pic/shukor yusof

A month after Malaysia’s prime minister stunned the world by revealing his country, whose GDP is many times smaller than that of California, was buying Boeing planes to help strengthen the US economy, a minister who accompanied him on that trip has said the main purpose was actually to “engage with the Americans”.

During a networking dinner with Malaysian professionals held at the Malaysian embassy in Singapore on Oct 11, we asked Mustapa Mohamed, Malaysia’s trade minister: the premier said Malaysia Airlines was buying Boeing planes to help prop up the US economy but the airline’s CEO has clarified the planes will be leased, not purchased, thus it wasn’t an investment. So who’s telling the truth?

“Well, let me put the record straight… it’s all very technical,” the minister replied. “First of all, we have a big trade surplus with the US, some USD25 billion. Second, we’re a small country, so we need to invest overseas. Third, Malaysia Airlines’ planes are old and the airline needs to improve its bottomline.”

The minister is 67 years old. But he looked sprightly and although we doubt if he could dance, he waltzed around our question for about 6-7 minutes with such relative ease and composure (without actually answering) it was almost impossible not to like him. “There’s controversy surrounding the US trip, especially on social media, and the criticisms were misplaced, misinformed.”

And with that he deftly disarmed the pesky prober by moving on to his favourite topic: politics, a subject he clearly was more adept at than aviation. “Elections are just around the corner,” he teased, “and we’ve had an exceptionally strong economic growth in 2017.”

Go figure.

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malaysians “engaging” with Americans in Washington DC on Sep 12. Malaysia’s trade minister is standing, second from left.

AirAsia to buy GE engines?

The trade minister also confirmed something interesting: that AirAsia was buying four GE engines over the next decade and that this was part of a package for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) purportedly worth USD15 billion. See here.

There’s just one problem: this is 12-year old news and it’s USD1.5 billion over a 20-year period. AirAsia inked the deal with GE, which has a joint venture with France’s Safran, to make CFM engines used by the airline’s A320 fleet. Read it here.

Here’s confirmation AirAsia uses CFM engines and Rolls Royce engines for its A330 planes deployed by AirAsia X.



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