Although many of us travel abroad by airplane, few would actually think about the aviation tire industry. But this is an industry is a rather unique one, with only three main players in the market – Goodyear being one of them.
Having served this trade for 11 years, Kho Kok Thye is very familiar with the aviation tire industry in Singapore. Previously a technician with the Republic of Singapore Air Forces (RSAF), Kho was servicing and maintaining jet fighter aircraft.
He then moved on to sell OTR tyres for the mining and construction industry before joining Goodyear as the area sales manager to handle the South-East Asia and Indo-China regions.
CHERYL TAY speaks to Kho to find out more about aviation tires and its place in the market…
Q: What is the role of the aviation tires office in Singapore?
A: The role of the aviation team in the Singapore Office is a multi-faceted one and it supports the business in the Asian region. Firstly, we function as a distribution centre as the free port allows us to stock imported tires from USA, Thailand and Brazil. We also provide AOG (Aircraft On Ground) services to customers in the Asian region. It helps that Singapore has an excellent infrastructure of logistics and aviation.
Next, we also manage consignment warehouses and facilitate sales for countries like China, Malaysia and The Philippines, providing a just-in-time service. Then there is of course the sales side where we have the linguistic abilities and are able to offer international exposure as well as administrative and credit facility support.
Q: What are the differences between aviation tires and passenger car tires?
A: There are huge differences in terms of operational, maintenance and technical aspects although both tire types look the same – like a “black doughnut”. Between a SUV passenger tire and a Boeing aircraft tire, the aircraft tire requires five times more inflation pressure so as to sustain severe operating conditions like a high speed of 225mph and high load range of 10,000lbs.
Q: How is the aviation tire industry different from the passenger car tire industry?
A: I guess the sales and distribution channel approach is much simpler compared to passenger tires. We do a lot more direct-selling to end-users, like those from the workshop, purchasing, quality, technical services of the airlines. The aviation tire industry also has less competition as there are only three major aircraft tire manufacturers globally – Goodyear being one of them. We compete strictly on customer focus, product safety and durability of aero tires and cost per value basis.
Q: What are some of the challenges you face in this trade?
A: The challenge does not lie so much in terms of sales, as the growth of aviation industry in the Asian region is expected to grow at six per cent annually. Major and budget airline operators are purchasing more aircraft than before, hence there are more aircraft in the sky and that means more tire usage, which is definitely good for our business.
A recent challenge we are facing is the high escalating costs of raw materials like natural rubber and the by-products of crude oil, making it very difficult for us to increase prices to existing customers, especially those on contractual basis.
Other challenges like sales collections, tire incident and prompt delivery of tires are just part of everyday challenges.
Q: Share with me a memorable incident encountered.
A: It happened with one of our customers in India many years back. We were trying very hard to sell our new design tires to them and we gave them some trial tires to check out the performance for themselves.
However, after a few months of testing our tires, they complained that our tire performance was far below expectations. We suspected it was an under-inflation issue, but they disagreed so we proceed to conduct a ramp check on their aircraft fleet. Then, we could only check their aircraft late in the night after all of their aircraft returned to the hangar after their flight schedules.
Eventually, our suspicions proved us right as we found that almost ninety per cent of our tyros were under-inflated. The late night checking paid off for us and the customer was convinced of our findings. Till today, this customer in India is still with us and is one of our major supporters.
Q: What do you hope to see for the future of this trade?
A: I really hope to see that Goodyear will continue to innovate with better products and be a front runner for OEM of all new aircraft in the future.
Name: Kho Kok Thye ( K.T.)
Designation: Area Sales Manager, Aviation Tires Asia Pacific
Organisation: Goodyear Asia Pacific
Marital Status: Married with three sons
Date Joined: November 1999
*This was first published in Goodyear Singapore’s trade newsletter.