By Mike Berry
Next week’s Dubai Airshow (we hope you can visit us at Stand 1800) will be the largest ever, with more than 1,100 exhibitors and some 65,000 visitors expected to attend the event at Al Maktoum International, Dubai South (formerly known as Dubai World Central) from 8-12 November. The biennial event in the UAE has come a long way since its modest beginning. And so has business aviation in the region. The long-term future here looks rosy indeed, with the Middle East and North Africa Business Aviation Association (MEBAA) projecting that the business aviation market in the Middle East will be worth $1.2 billion by 2020.
ExecuJet has also grown in the Middle East over the past 16 years. We started with a single facility in Dubai and a couple of managed aircraft. Today, we have two FBOs in Dubai (at Dubai International and Dubai South), one each in Riyadh and Istanbul, and a MRO facility at Dubai International. Such growth speaks to our confidence in the region, our optimism for the future and, most importantly, requests from our customers to who rely on business aviation for their business and leisure needs in the Middle East.
But as we look forward to the next 16 years, how important is the Middle East to ExecuJet’s future growth? What trends and aircraft types are driving that growth? And what are the issues we need to be most mindful of, as we look to the future?
Commitment to an Important Region
One needs look no further than our service footprint to see that ExecuJet puts a lot of emphasis on the Middle East. All of ExecuJet’s services are offered here, including aircraft management, charter, maintenance, fixed based operations (FBOs) and aircraft completions management. And while overall market growth this year has occurred at a much slower rate than in past years, we hope to see a rise in demand again, with the traditionally busier winter months upon us.
Aircraft management, in particular, continues to be popular among our clients based in, or flying into, the Middle East. Our aircraft management service offers all the benefits of aircraft ownership, but with none of the time-consuming management responsibilities involved in aircraft operations, such as hiring pilots, renting hanger space and obtaining insurance. Our latest white paper, Maximising Your Aircraft, is now available for download. It gives useful insight for those contemplating the purchase of their first aircraft, those looking at advice on issues such as aircraft compliance, and those seeking guidance on when it makes sense to use charter aircraft versus ownership.
A Region that Favours Long Range
The Middle East, similar to other emerging markets in the world, remains interested foremost in long-run aircraft. Currently in the Middle East, we have over 20 aircraft in our managed fleet, to accommodate a range of customer needs in terms of passenger capacity and range:
Over the past three months, ExecuJet has added three large-cabin business jets to our fleet, with two more scheduled to join before the New Year. These additions include a Bombardier Global 5000, Dassault Falcon 2000 and a Gulstream G450. We are particularly enthusiastic about the two brand new Bombardier Global 5000 Vision aircraft joining the fleet in December. These new-on-the-scene aircraft have a 5,200 nautical-mile range and are equipped with the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion-based Vision flight deck, the first avionics suite with synthetic vision on a head-up display. These aircraft will help us stay competitive in a region that is rather forward-looking.
Preparing for Challenges
Like any market, the Middle East has its own unique issues and obstacles. Staff recruitment and retention is a perennial challenge, as we need to compete with numerous aviation operators in the area, as well as commercial providers, seeking experienced operations, maintenance and FBO staff. Whenever possible, we prefer to recruit, hire and train locally. But in a fast-growing region like the Middle East, we sometimes have to rely on relocation from other markets, which can be expensive.
Operationally, weather is another significant challenge in our business. Dubai can reach 48°C in the summer, with high humidity and dusty conditions. This is obviously less than ideal for parked aircraft or staff working outside. Fortunately, both our large hangars in Dubai are fully air conditioned, and this is one of the “extra costs” of doing business in the Middle East. We also ensure our ramp staff are looked after during the summer months, with frequent refreshment breaks, ventilated clothing, air-conditioned vehicles and plenty of rehydration being the norm. We recently added cooled, high-visibility jackets that quite literally keep the maintenance and ramp staff refreshed, even on the hottest day.
Of course, heat and humidity are expected in the Middle East. We hope that, similarly, ExecuJet will become a part of the fabric in the region for many years to come.