GSE's Growth in Korea
HanilAero's President, Hongki Chung offers some insight into the growing aviation ground support industry in Korea.
By Hongki Chung
My country, Korea, suffered from a terrible Civil War for three years right after World War II, and most young citizens in Seoul do not know that there was an airport that was an important air base for the United Army on the island in Han River that runs through the center of the capital city. Nowadays, the island plays another important role as a political and financial district.
Civil airlines began in the late 1960's at Kimpo International Airport with reluctance because there was no vision of success. However, Korean economy grew up rapidly and expanded its enterprise to a high level in the world airline market. Of course, government has been a reliable supporter and the Seoul Olympic games in 1988 offered important turnover to the Korean airline companies to show their brand names worldwide.
Statistics show that Kimpo Airport in Korea was one of the busiest airports in the world. With highly increasing volume of passenger and cargo, government had decided to build another international airport near Seoul. In March 2001, Incheon Airport (ICN) was opened to handle the significant capacity of 240,000 flights, 30 million passengers and 2.7 million tons of cargo a year. The international airline industry foresees that Asia-Pacific region will account for around half of the world's international passenger traffic by 2010. Korea and China, especially, are showing the most rapid growth in air traffic. ICN could expand its potential capacity in phases to accommodate 100 million passengers in the future.
GSE is very popular now in Korea. There are two major airline companies in Korea, Korean Air and Asiana Airlines. A Korean Air Cargo terminal has opened at Incheon International Airport. Both companies have their own hangar in the new airport. They had established their subsidiary ground handling companies from the beginning of their business.
As you well know, air transportation volume is rapidly expanding, so these companies are very interested in increasing potential manpower and operative efficiency of equipment.
My father founded HanilAero in 1974. It was a small, private company like many others in the country during the nation's developing period. From that time, Korean Air Lines has been our major customer and we had to manufacture almost everything that they wanted and needed.
Due to restricted manpower and facilities, we have made limited products such as work stands, platforms, maintenance tools, and cargo dollies. However, thanks to our steady investment in machineries, we could make more complicated equipment and special tools like fan module maintenance and transport stands, and de-icing trailers.
My company is the leading specialized company in the field of GSE, special tools, and cargo dollies. I realized specialization and professionalism are key factors to survival in the current competitive market. There are not so many companies specialized in aircraft ground support equipment in Korea as abroad, especially in USA. Limited market does not allow many makers to participate in this area. Strict condition of contract and lots of requirements by clients has made concerned party prefer importing to manufacturing.
However, things are changing now. There will be
lots of projects and orders to meet the requirements of fast expanding scope
of business of being a hub airport in East Asia. The operating rate of equipment
is higher in Korea than that of overseas companies, so there is much need for
replacement, substitution, and repair. If products would be fabricated in client's
area by approved company with supplier's certification or assignment, the offer
price could be much lower. If you look, there are sure to be many people with
sufficient skill and experience, strongly willing to cooperate.