KUALA LUMPUR: APFT Bhd, which provides training, education and services in civil aviation, will be investing RM10 million to open a helicopter training centre in Ipoh this year.
APFT executive director Arif Faruk said for a start, the centre, which will be located at the Sultan Azlan Shah airport, will have a hangar, three US-made Robinson helicopters and three single-engine planes made by US firm Piper Warrior.
"APFT is the sole company in Malaysia to be licensed by the Department of Civil Aviation to set up a helicopter training centre, which will be able to meet the country's needs for qualified helicopter pilots," Arif said recently.
He said demand will come from various sectors such as the oil and gas sector as well as government agencies such as the Malaysian Ma-ritime Enforcement Agency and the Fire and Rescue Department, which is in the midst of bolstering its helicopter fleet.
"The closure of the country's sole helicopter training centre, ITNS, in Ipoh in 2011 also encouraged us to open a centre of our own."
Arif said APFT, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Asia Pacific Flight Training Sdn Bhd, recently bought two new helicopters - Robinson R44 and R66 - from Robinson Helicopter Company, which is America's largest civil aviation helicopter maker.
He said both helicopters will arrive in the first half of this year, bolstering APFT's fleet size to 39 single and twin-engine planes and three helicopters, all parked at APFT's hub at Sultan Ismail Petra Airport in Pengkalan Chepa, Kelantan.
Arif said after encountering earnings pressure for two consecutive years, the training segment as well as the helicopter purchases are expected to turn around and spearhead its future earnings.
He said the company plans to expand its fleet size gradually in the future as well as tie up with foreign partners to reduce dependency on local earnings.
He said APFT, via Asia Pacific Flight Training, has forged a partnership with India's GMR Hyde-rabad Airport Ltd (GHIAL) to set up a civil aviation training centre, which will be operational soon with an ownership ratio of 60 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively.
APFT, which is listed on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia, is controlled by Arif's family. Arif's father Datuk Faruk Othman is APFT executive chairman, who owns 27.27 per cent equity in the company, while his children Arif, Aisyah and Aida own 10 per cent, five per cent and 1.41 per cent, respectively.
Another 30 per cent is controlled by the family via Forad Holdings.