Mo Mun Tei – No problem!

The PAMAS facility at Kai Tak Airfield in the late 1940s.
The PAMAS facility at Kai Tak Airfield in the late 1940s.
Marking its 70th anniversary in 2020, the Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company came into being on 1st November 1950, following the merger of the Pacific Air Maintenance & Supply Company (“PAMAS”) and Jardine Air Maintenance Company ("JAMCo"), owned respectively by Swire and Jardine.

The two hongs diversified into aviation after World War II: Jardine forming Hong Kong Airways in 1947 and Swire taking a controlling interest in Cathay Pacific Airways in 1948. Both firms established maintenance facilities at Kai Tak Airfield in anticipation of owning and operating aircraft, with PAMAS taking over Cathay Pacific's existing makeshift facilities. A workforce drafted in from Taikoo Dockyard completed construction of a new hangar at the beginning of 1949, and this timber building served the company until 1962, when it was sold to Hong Kong's leading film studio, Shaw Brothers, and shifted to their lot at Clearwater Bay. With the infrastructure in place, PAMAS brought in a number of engineers seconded from Cathay Pacific shareholder, Australian National Airways, to get its maintenance operation up and running and to train local recruits in the art of stripping down and cleaning aircraft engines. This move set the trend for the company's enduring strategy of training staff 'in-house'.

In those early days, equipment was makeshift and spares in short supply. The machine shop set up by Taikoo Dockyard fabricated replacement parts, and necessity was the mother of invention for everything else. When a typhoon threatened, the entire workforce turned out to physically hold down parked aircraft; an old truck was put into service as an engine test-bed, and at the end of a day's maintenance work, PAMAS engineers expected to climb aboard for a two-to-three hour trial flight to test out new components.

But it soon became clear there wasn't enough business to support two maintenance facilities at Kai Tak; so when JAMCo's principal customer, Hong Kong Airways, suspended its flights to the Chinese mainland towards the end of 1949, selling its fleet of DC-3s, the two companies agreed to join forces. In November 1950, the newly formed Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company had 450 employees. Then known as "HAEC", rather than "HAECO", (the final "O" was added in the 1970s), the company recorded a turnover of HK$7,620,000 in its first year of operation. Not bad, considering Kai Tak handled only 2,600 aircraft movements. Then, as now, the company's principal strengths were the skill, dedication and ‘can-do' approach of its staff. "Mo mun tei" – the Cantonese for "no problem" - quickly became their motto.

150A logo
Back to top