* Work done at SIA Engineering Philippines base - sources
* Jet grounded for three weeks after return from base
* Maintenance in Asia shifting to lower-cost countries
By Jamie Freed
SINGAPORE, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Tigerair Australia, the budget arm of Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd, plans to move its heavy maintenance work from the Philippines after it was forced to ground a jet for three weeks for repairs upon return from a regular check, a source said.
Jet maintenance work has increasingly been moving to lower-cost bases such as the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia over the past few years in Asia, away from countries like Singapore and Australia. And reports of problems have so far been rare.
The maintenance check on a Tigerair Australia Boeing 737 jet was done at SIA Engineering Philippines - a joint venture controlled by SIA Engineering Co Ltd, the engineering offshoot of Singapore Airlines, three sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
But problems involving the cockpit voice recorder and the cargo smoke evacuation system were discovered after the jet’s flight from the Philippines to Melbourne on July 31, one of the sources said. There were no passengers on board that flight.
Tigerair Australia has been using the Philippines facility for jet maintenance for two years without incident before the recent event, but it will now look to move to SIA Engineering’s Singapore base or another provider, the source said.
The airline’s head of engineering, Rob Furber, told Reuters that an extensive review of the heavy maintenance had been undertaken and the 737 jet was now operating without incident.
Tigerair Australia, however, declined to comment on whether it would shift its maintenance base. SIA Engineering did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority, which certifies overseas providers doing work on Australian jets, said it was aware of the incident reported to it by Tigerair Australia and it continued to work with the airline and the maintenance provider to ensure high standards of safety were maintained.
SIA Engineering is competing against rivals like Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd, Garuda Indonesia offshoot GMF AeroAsia and increasingly manufacturers like Boeing Co to attract third-party maintenance work. (Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Miyoung Kim and Himani Sarkar)