mideast bizav spreading its wings

January 8, 2019

Taking a closer look at the Middle East to assess the state of the industry in the region, we find a Business Aircraft fleet that will continue to grow – along with the services for aircraft operators. But we also see Middle East Business Aviation companies now starting to successfully expand into other regions. Volker K. Thomalla writes

The Middle East and Africa is home to only 4% of the worldwide business aircraft fleet. But in terms of value, the average aircraft in the region has a much higher value than in other parts of the world. Here, larger-cabin aircraft up to bizliners dominate the market, whereas midsize and light jets are a clear minority and – as is the case for light jets – are mostly used for training.

In its recently published Global Business Aviation Outlook, Honeywell Aerospace sees a decrease in purchase plans for the region due to political tensions and ongoing conflicts in the next 10 years. Historically, the Middle East and Africa had a share between 4 and 7% of all expected deliveries. The newest outlook sees this share drop to the lower end of the range for the next five years. Only 14% of all respondents said that they will add a new aircraft or replace an older one. This percentage is down 4% from last year’s 18% – the lowest percentage of all regions.

But that’s just one opinion. Brazilian manufacturer Embraer Executive Jets has a very positive outlook for the region’s market. In its Market Outlook 2018, the company predicts that the Middle East and Asia-Pacific will be the fastest growing markets by 2037. Embraer’s optimism is underlined by the fact that in 2017 there were over 30,000 private jet flights out of Dubai alone. Several global events like Expo 2020 in the United Arab Emirates and the FIFA football Word Cup championships in Qatar in 2022 will significantly increase the number of business aircraft flights in the region and help spur growth.

Ali Alnaqbi, Executive Chairman of the Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA), has a positive view of the future, too. MEBAA is the official representative of the Business Aviation industry in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). It represents over 260 companies within the region. “I’m very optimistic, especially with the key regional markets of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates growing,” he says. “We will soon see growth in the two countries getting back to normal.”

Alnaqbi says he expects Business Aviation in the region to grow in excess of 5% this year. “The confidence is there, and several international companies firmly believe that MENA is a good market,” he adds. “So, we continue to promote the region very aggressively.”

Investing in the Region

Even if new aircraft sales don’t grow, manufacturers and service providers are investing in the region to have capabilities and capacity in place to serve clients locally. Jet Aviation, for example, established a maintenance and FBO location in Dubai as early as 2005. It started as a joint venture company with the Al Mulla Business Group. The facility in Dubai has a total of 4,200 square meters of hangar space, a workshop area of 1,050 square meters and holds maintenance approvals from authorities from around the world, including EASA and the FAA.

The company also supports a fully-staffed Line Maintenance station at Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai South. Jet Aviation recently announced that it successfully performed two simultaneous 192-month C-checks on Gulfstream GVs in Dubai. The maintenance center is a factory-authorized service center for Gulfstream Aerospace, supporting the full line of Gulfstream large-cabin business jets. The 192-month C-Check is a heavy inspection that requires the majority of the aircraft’s components to be inspected. To take advantage of the downtime, both C-Checks on the GV deliveries were combined with a number of service bulletins, including double engine changes and minor refurbishments, with rather extensive maintenance structural corrosion repairs on one of the aircraft.

“Undertaking two projects of this magnitude at the same time is a considerable undertaking that requires great skill and organization,” says Jet Aviation Vice President of Regional Operations in the Middle East and General Manager of Dubai Hardy Butschi. “Thousands of man-hours were dedicated to completing the two projects in a timely manner to both customers’ great satisfaction.”

Butschi notes that customers appreciate the company’s experience, expertise and flexibility with large inspections and regularly take the opportunity to combine scheduled maintenance with other service offerings. “Combining scheduled inspections with other service offerings is our way of delivering the highest benefit to our customers,” he says.

DC Aviation Al-Futtaim (DCAF) a joint venture between Dubai-based Al-Futtaim and Germany’s DC Aviation, opened a second hangar at Dubai South Aviation District in November last year to meet demand for services in the region. The new 7,500 square meter hangar more than doubled the company’s existing hangar capacity, bringing its total land-side plot area to 24,000 square meters and apron area to 13,000 square meters.

“Being fully aware of the tremendous potential from day one, we committed to Dubai South at a very early stage, in December 2010, when Omar Al-Futtaim signed the land-lease agreement with Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum,” says DC Aviation Group CEO Michael Kuhn. “The opening of the second hangar fits in with our expansion plans and enables us to meet the growing demand for business and private jet operations in the Aviation District at Dubai South for years to come.”

“Since commencing operations in November 2013, we have seen our business grow steadily year-on-year,” adds DC Aviation Al-Futtaim Managing Director Holger Ostheimer. “Our facility offers the shortest distance from limousine drop-off to aircraft steps and the highest levels of privacy and safety, both of which have been widely appreciated and accepted by customers and operators.”

“The Aviation District at Dubai South has been designed to support and grow businesses like DC Aviation Al-Futtaim, where the aviation ecosystem enables them to leverage the synergies with other suppliers and vendors,” says Dubai Aviation City Corporation Executive Chairman His Excellency Khalifa Al Zaffin. “The inauguration of their second hangar will provide Dubai South with another milestone to better serve its customers and partners in one of the most promising aerospace hubs around the world. We look forward to further successful partnerships that will serve the regional markets and the UAE leadership’s vision to make the country the aviation capital of the world.”

The hangar adds multiple single-aisle aircraft maintenance bays and provides enough space for additional workshop and equipment storage. It also significantly increases the number and size of aircraft that can be accommodated at the facility. Now, aircraft up to the size of a Boeing 767 can be accommodated by DCAF. The additional hangar capacity was used as a base to further enhance the cooperation between DC Aviation and Lufthansa Technik, enabling the company to extend its reach within the region and serve as first port of call for VIP carriers from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

In early 2017, DCAF received its CAR145 approval from the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) to provide line maintenance for the Dassault Falcon 7X trijet. With the extension of the CAR145 approval, DCAF is now able to provide B1 (airframe) and B2 (avionics) maintenance services for the Falcon 7X at its Dubai South hangar. In addition to the Falcon 7X, DCAF can provide maintenance for the Bombardier Global Express, Challenger 604/605, Airbus 320 family, and the Global 6000 and Global 5000.

Qatar Airways and its subsidiary Qatar Executive, which was founded in 2009, is still a major player in the market, despite the conflict between Qatar and its neighboring countries that prevents Qatari aircraft from using the airspace of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.

Qatar Executive is, for obvious reasons, not exhibiting at MEEBA this year, but it introduced its newest aircraft type in the fleet, the Gulfstream G500, at the Farnborough International Airshow in July this year. The G500 debut took place even before certification of the aircraft. Qatar Executive is one of the launch customers of both the G500 and the G600. At the unveiling of the aircraft in Farnborough, Akbar Al Baher, CEO of the Qatar Airways Group, said that the G500 is a game-changer for Qatar and the industry as a whole. Qatar Executive plans to take delivery of its first G500 this year, with five more scheduled in 2019.

Long-Range, Large Cabin Jets Remain Popular

Over 180 Gulfstream business jets are based in the Middle East and Africa. For the Savannah, Georgia, based manufacturer, the region has always been an attractive market. The company has a considerable market penetration in the Middle East and takes care of its customers. Gulfstream operates a parts distribution center in Dubai South to meet customer’s demand for spare parts.

With the new G500 and G600 entering into service, customers from the Middle East will welcome the news that the G600 will deliver even more range than previously announced. The G600 is now capable of covering a distance of 5,500 nautical miles at its high-speed cruise speed of Mach 0.90, a 700 nautical mile increase over the original specifications. With London being the most popular destination for all business aircraft flights out of the Middle East, there is a clear need for long-range and large cabin aircraft.

The Middle East is also a good market for Bombardier Business Aircraft. In January this year, the Canadian aerospace company displayed the full-size cabin mock-up of its new flagship Global 7000 at Jetex’s private terminal in Dubai. “The Middle East represents a huge growth opportunity for aircraft manufacturing, and we are excited that the mock-up is on display in Dubai so that customers can discover why the Global 7000 aircraft offers the smoothest ride and is the perfect home away from home,” says Bombardier Business Aircraft Vice President, Sales, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific & China Khader Mattar.

The now renamed Global 7500 was been certified by Transport Canada in early October. According to Bombardier, the Global 7500 is the largest, most luxurious and longest-range business jet ever built. It should enter-into-service in late 2018, and our bets are that it won’t take long until it becomes a staple in the Gulf region.

Dassault Aviation had displayed its flagship Falcon 8X at the Abu Dhabi Air Expo in February this year, its first appearance in the Middle East. The first 8X – a long range, large-cabin jet capable of flying 6,450 nautical miles – has been handed over to a customer in late 2016, and several Falcon 8X are already flying in the Gulf region.

“The Gulf is a key market for Business Aviation and operators place a high premium on the performance, robustness and advanced technology of Falcon jets, inherited from Dassault fighter aircraft programs,” says Dassault Aviation Chairman and CEO Eric Trappier. “That’s why customers in the region are reacting so enthusiastically to the 8X – it offers the best combination of range, cabin comfort and operating efficiency of any business jet on the market.”

The Dassault Falcon fleet in the Middle East has nearly doubled to almost 80 aircraft in the past decade, including nearly a dozen very long-range Falcon 7Xs. A quarter of the regional fleet is made up of Falcon 2000 twin engine business jets.

The French manufacturer wants to attract more customers in the Middle East with its newest aircraft, the Pratt & Whitney PW800 powered Falcon 6X, which is currently in development. The Falcon 6X will feature a 5,500 nautical mile range and the largest cabin of all Falcon jets. It is scheduled to enter-into-service in 2022.

Dassault continues to reinforce its product support network in the Gulf region to meet the requirements of its expanding regional Falcon fleet. The company operates an Authorized Service Center, spares distribution center and regional sales office in Dubai, UAE, and an Authorized Service Center and technical office in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The Dubai warehouse stocks more than $2 million worth of inventory, primarily for the Falcon 7X, Falcon 8X and the Falcon 2000 series.

Saudi Arabia Wants In

Home to the largest fleet of business aircraft in the Middle East and Africa, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is ambitious to build its own aerospace industry and invests heavily in different aviation activities. In July of 2018, Saudi Arabia launched a brand-new aviation event, the Saudi Airshow. It will take place from March 12 to 14, 2019 and strives to establish itself as the leading aerospace event in the region.

Adone events, the organizers of the new show at the Thumamah Airport in Riyadh, expect nearly 100 aircraft to be exhibited at the static display and three well-booked exhibition halls with 700 booths. “I am honored that the Saudi Aviation Club has shown its confidence in Adone Events by agreeing to collaborate with us on this exciting new venture,” says Adone Events General Manager Didier Mary. “Our experience, knowledge and network of aviation contacts is such that we can already confirm that more than 200 aviation companies have expressed strong interest in participating. The growth of aviation in Saudi Arabia reflects the need for this type of international exhibition and we are delighted to be involved.”

Home Team Advantage

Business Aviation in the Middle East attracts manufacturers, suppliers and service providers from around the world. But now companies from the region are going global and are offering their services in other regions. Companies like JetEx Flight Support, Hadid International Services, UAS International Trip Support and others, all of whom are headquartered in the Middle East, are making their way into Asia, Europe and the US.

Jetex Flight Support from Dubai has been appointed – again – as the official FBO and handler for MEBAA 2018. The company, which has a world-class FBO right next to the MEBAA show site, will be providing full support for all Business Aviation flights that are operating from the VIP terminal in the Aviation District, at Dubai World Central. Jetex will also be offering its high-quality FBO facilities for passengers and crew, as well as customs and immigration services, aircraft parking, and coordination of aircraft display areas at the MEBAA Show 2018.

“We are proud to be associated with MEBAA and to be appointed as their official handler for the third time,” says Jetex President and CEO Adel Mardini. “We look forward to be working in partnership with the organizers Tarsus F&E LLC Middle East and MEBAA once again and to be part of the MEBAA show, one of the most significant shows within the MENA region.” The company has a global network of over 50 locations in more than 25 countries.