The Aircraft Maintenance Industry in Hong Kong – post WW2

IDJ: Before HAECO came into existence, three companies offered aircraft maintenance services at Kai Tak. JAMCO and PAMAS merged to become HAECO  (Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company) on 1 November 1950.

CNAC disappeared from the scene in 1949 when the government in China changed hands and CNAC’s assets were then subjected to a long drawn out legal battle in the courts of  Hong Kong between China and CNAC’s American partners as to their ownership.

Kai Tak
CNAC maintenance base along the seawall c1949

The Sydney Morning Herald, Sunday 25 September 1949
AIRCRAFT MAINTENANCE INDUSTRY IN HONG KONG

The rapid rise of Hong Kong as a world ranking international civil air base has given life to a comparatively new branch of business in the Colony in the development of the aircraft maintenance industry.

Servicing some 60 to 70 airline companies operating into and through Hong Kong are two large aircraft maintenance organisations – Jardine Aircraft Maintenance Company Ltd (commonly referred to as JAMCO), an associated company of Jardine Matheson’s; and Pacific Air Maintenance and Supply Company Ltd (PAMAS).

In fact there is a third – the maintenance department of the China National Aviation Corporation. With the Government sealing off CNAC’s workshop last week after the Corporation had stood firm against Government’s previous notice to leave Kai Tak, the servicing department of CNAC is now in a paralytic state, leaving JAMCO and PAMAS as the only two maintenance organisations to operate.

The CNAC unit, previous to the incident was by far the largest and busiest of the three serving companies in Hong Kong. The Corporation’s workshop ranks as the finest and biggest in the whole of the Orient. It catered principally to its own huge fleet of aircraft, but at the same time, like both JAMCO and PAMAS serviced planes from other airlines.

CNAC’s maintenance organisation developed to its present size during the war, operating in Calcutta and servicing the famous ‘Hump’ flights. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, CNAC packed up and moved back to its pre-war base at Shanghai, a strategic base from which the Corporation operated its dense network of domestic and international air routes.

The Corporation was soon to move again, however. This came when the Communists in their southward drive early this year (1949) approached Shanghai. CNAC pulled out in time and settled in Hong Kong. The transplanting of the works of the CNAC’s servicing department reached 90% completion when Government action took effect last Tuesday. On the other hand, CNAC had been given two months notice to make room for Government requirements. For the time being therefore CNAC as maintenance service in the Colony must be discounted.

ROUTE SERVICE

JAMCO came into existence in November 1947 and developed from a small body of BOAC engineers here to service BOAC’s flying boats. The first objective of the company was to provide route service for any users and main base maintenance for Hong Kong Airways (a BOAC Associated Company)

This has now been extended to cover all types of routine service of complete aircraft and the overhauling of engines, propellers, radio and radar gear and instruments. JAMCO’s service has extended to all work for BOAC and Hong Kong Airways, Qantas, Canadian Pacific Air Lines, Bharat Airways, Air France, Braathens, CATC, Trans Ocean Airlines and various private owners and operators in Hong Kong and Indo-China.

At present JAMCO operations are restricted to Hong Kong, but development will take place in areas where opportunity occurs and where there is a requirement for such services. The development of JAMCO can be seen in the staff roll of the company today (1949) as compared with 1947. Today, JAMCO lists some 350 personnel. This includes 20 British engineers and administrative staff and 12 American engineers with the remainder locally recruited personnel. JAMCO’s “American department” consists wholly of American engineers who are mainly concerned with the overhaul of Pratt and Whitney aero-engines.

Kai Tak JAMCO hangar c1949

Kai Tak
JAMCO hangar
c1949

PAMAS began functioning as an aircraft maintenance organisation on July 1 1948. In staff strength, however PAMAS compares with JAMCO having some 300 employed including 27 European engineers and administrative personnel. Founded with British capital, PAMAS through its liaison with experienced aviation associate companies has been able to obtain all required qualified technical assistance. Agents in Britain, America and Australia keep PAMAS advised of all new developments and ensure a continuous flow of spare, equipment and stores. Work flows into PAMAS from eight different countries, servicing airlines which include PAL, PAA, CPA, MATCO, TAA, CAT, Air Burma, Malayan Airways, Siamese Airlines, POAS, SITA (A French airline company operating in Indo-China), the French Air Force etc.

Kai Tak PAMAS hangar built by Taikoo Dockyard c1949

Kai Tak
PAMAS hangar built by Taikoo Dockyard
c1949

Both JAMCO and PAMAS each have a hangar capable of accommodating any aircraft operating into the Colony. The floor space of these hangars measure from 24,000 to 28,000 square feet.

JAMCO’s operations area at Kai Tak include steel framed aluminium sheeted prefabricated workshops for all general services and engine overhaul shop; an administrative cum stores building onto which the company has built the control tower for the Hong Kong Government and a twin-mounting engine test-bed on which overhauled engines are run.

The PAMAS area is situated adjacent to JAMCO’s on the north side and covers some 75,000 square feet of floor space on which PAMAS has complete administrative and workshop buildings.

Note :- The PAMAS hangar was later dismantled when the new runway pointing out to sea was brought into service, and re-erected at Clearwater Bay as part of Run Run Shaw’s film studio complex.

Kai Tak HAECO hangar 1951

Kai Tak
HAECO hangar
1951

Further reading:-
Wings Over Hong Kong-1998
Hong Kong High-2014
Airport of the Nine Dragons-1996
MO MUN TEI-A History of Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company-2000

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. The Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company Ltd
  2. The Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company Ltd – Flight magazine 1952
  3. The Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company Ltd (HAECO) photographs
  4. ‘Chic Eather’s’ website – Early balloon/plane flights in HK, Kai Tak and much more!
  5. A Brief History of Hong Kong Cinema to 1988 – Film Studios and Personalities
    The PAMAS hangar was later dismantled when the new runway pointing out to sea was brought into service, and re-erected at Clearwater Bay as part of Run Run Shaw’s film studio complex.

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