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Middle East Focus: AJA order underlines charter operators' commitment to servicing regional growth in vip demand
Al Jaber Aviation (AJA) has set a private charter operational launch target date of February after ordering 21 Airbus and Embraer aircraft.

Al Jaber Aviation (AJA) has set a private charter operational launch target date of February after ordering 21 Airbus and Embraer aircraft. AJA, a new subsidiary of the UAE's Al Jaber Group, plans to operate two Legacy 600s, five Lineage 1000s, eight Legacy 450/500s, four Elites and two ACJs. Separately Saudia's private aviation arm ordered six Hawker 400XPs and Cessna, Embraer and BAE confirmed a range of agreed deliveries.

The orders were among more than $1.5bn worth of deals announced at MEBA 2008 confirming that the region's private charter growth is forging ahead through international agreements and fleet expansion, despite the global credit crisis.

"These aircraft were selected for their superior cabin space, reliability and advanced technology," says AJA ceo Mohammed Al Jaber. "From its initial base in Abu Dhabi, and later from Dubai, AJA plans to serve clients from the Middle East, Russia, Asia, Europe and Africa. The Legacy 600 will be the first aircraft to sport the AJA livery and all our fleet will be delivered over the course of the next five years."

Al Jaber Group boasts it is the largest private sector employer in the UAE with 55,000 employees with interests in construction, oil and gas pipelines building, oil rig refurbishment, industrial fabrication, heavy lifting and heavy transportation.

AJA also signed a joint venture agreement with Avisa Aviation Systems setting up Avisa Gulf which will be based in Abu Dhabi and provide locally sourced expert services and training locally to airlines, fleet and individual operators and maintenance repair organisations.

Mohammed Al Jaber says: "The regional vip charter market has huge potential. Estimates suggest the sector will be growing at 25 per cent per annum and that the UAE will be the epicentre of the market."

Dr Mark Pierotti, AJA coo, says: "The group will make great strides in the vip charter market and in so doing, support plans that will see the UAE become the global hub for vip aviation."

International agreements

Rising demand for private charter is likely to lead to more international agreements. Royal Jet, head-quartered in Abu Dhabi and chaired by HE Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, has agreed with Arab Wings of Jordan to jointly manage a new Challenger 605 from February 2009. The agreement was signed by Ahmad Abu Ghazaleh, gm and ceo of Arab Wings, and Shane O'Hare, president and ceo of Royal Jet. O'Hare says: "The deal could signal the start of further cooperation in the future between the two companies, which share a number of common synergies."

Dubai-based charter sales and management company Empire Aviation Group (EAG) has appointed an RSA in Qatar and has committed to a joint venture with a Saudi Arabian partner that will replicate the Dubai business model from a base in Riyadh by the middle of 2009. EAG reports 20 firm aircraft orders for new Hawker and Beechcraft aircraft and various other pre-owned models. Paras Dhamecha, executive director, says the company plans an 80,000 square foot hangar facility and headquarters at Dubai World Central.

Avjet Corporation has formed a strategic partnership with Executive Aircraft Sales of Abu Dhabi. "The alliance expands Avjet's strong global presence into Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Moscow and will focus on sales, acquisitions, management and charter operation of large-cabin aircraft," says Andrew Bradley, Avjet svp global sales and acquisitions. "These include the Boeing Business Jet and Gulfstream and Global Express aircraft."

German operator DC Aviation has signed a deal with the UAE's Al-Futtaim Group to establish an executive business jet company that is expected to start operations in 2009. Meanwhile, Italy's Piaggio Aero signed an agreement with Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies to establish its first Middle East authorised maintenance centre, operational by the end of this year, at Abu Dhabi airport.

Jordanian operator RayaJet announced its purchase of a Challenger 300 and Challenger 605, while at the same time revealing a tie-up with flight training company Ayla Aviation Academy and the activation of its SAMA fleet handling company.

VistaJet plans to expand its Flight Solutions further into the region with a full roll-out including jet membership, partnership and ownership programmes and has appointed a sales representative in Dubai.

Abu Dhabi's Prestige Jet has acquired Madrid-based aircraft management charter service Flylink Express. And Prestige Holding announced five subsidiary comp-anies covering charter, flight support, flight ambulance, and brokerage and investment. It also confirmed the development of three FBOs in Qatar, Jordan and Bahrain. Dubai Airports announced the launch of its new Executive Flights Centre (EFC) vip terminal and travel facility at Dubai airport.

US$1.5 billion orders

Manufacturers including Dassault, Gulfstream, Embraer, Boeing, Cessna, Bombardier, Hawker Beechcraft and Airbus confirm that orders placed through MEBA can be valued in the region of US$1.5 billion.

Cessna agent, Capt Saad Wallan of Wallan Aviation, confirms the sales of three Columbus aircraft, a Citation, a Caravan and two used CJs worth $90m. Wallan Aviation of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is now an authorised Citation service centre.

Cessna has delivered the first of two Mustangs to new air charter operator Open Sky Aviation of Lebanon whose ceo Haytham Azhari says the launch of commercial operations from Beirut's Rafic Hariri airport make Open Sky the first charter operator in the Middle East to offer entry-level business jet services.

Azhari says: "Our strategy is to broaden the market for business aviation by offering a natural step up for travellers who presently fly scheduled across the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean."

Prestige Jet of Abu Dhabi is also evaluating the possibility of adding a third Sovereign to its fleet. Since the first delivery in late 2004, more than 220 Sovereigns have been delivered and the fleet has amassed more than 185,000 flight hours, according to Cessna's vp for international sales, Trevor Esling.

Smart Aviation now operates three Sovereigns. "The Sovereign has an important role to fill, as we are introducing the concept of executive air charter to a new market," says Smart Aviation ceo Sameh Anwar.

Egypt's Egyptian Aviation Academy (EAA) has ordered four Mustangs. EAA's Misr Flying College is the oldest established flying school in the Middle East and aims to become a significant provider of pilot training services throughout the region, says Hassan Hassan, chairman and ceo.

Arab Wings of Jordan will receive a Sovereign in the second half of 2009. Ahmad Abu Ghazaleh, gm, says: "With the addition of a Sovereign and CJ1+ we are adding capacity at both ends of our fleet, and have chosen aircraft that are tried and tested in the Middle East's demanding conditions."

Cessna says that some ten percent of orders for its new large cabin business jet, the Columbus, have come from the Middle East. The Columbus is expected to gain full certification in 2013 and enter service in 2014.

Meanwhile Embraer confirmed it had signed deals worth more than $208m to deliver two Legacy 500 Jets to Falcon Aviation Services, two to Asaig Aviation as well as the four Legacy 450s and four Legacy 500s to new Al Jaber Aviation.

Governments' vip choice

Andy Whelan, director sales for BAE Systems Regional Aircraft, said: "The Avro Business Jet has been chosen by three Gulf governments for their regional vip air transport requirements, in addition to other clients who operate the aircraft. We intend to build on this strong position and are in detailed discussions with several customers which we hope will lead to further deals in the near future."

In Abu Dhabi Amiri Flight has one RJ70 and one RJ85. The vip-configured RJ70 is operated by Amiri Flight and the executive charter-configured RJ85 is operated under management by Royal Jet. Based in Kuwait City, First Kuwaiti Trading and Construction operates a BAe 146-200 as a corporate aircraft retaining the commercial airline interior.

Operators say the ABJs have four entry/exit doors and front and rear galleys which allow for a split cabin, giving principals comfort and privacy in the front cabin completely independent from staff in the rear cabin. Two large underfloor baggage bays can accommodate all the luggage needs of clients in either a private or corporate configuration. The aircraft, they add, has been designed to operate on its own from remote airports.

Whelan says: "Recent commitments by governments, high net-worth individuals, companies and charter organisations means that there are now around 25 ABJs either in service or under conversion for this market."

Middle East debuts Dassault Falcon says a dozen Falcons have entered service in the region in the past 12 months and within the next four years the Middle East Falcon fleet is expected to double in number to over 80. John Rosanvallon, president and ceo, says: "Increased income from higher oil prices certainly has been a factor but we see countless examples of companies here broadening their interests to other areas of commerce and trade throughout the world."

The region's first two Falcon 7Xs were delivered in 2008 and the first of the 20 Falcon 2000LX sold to NAS (National Air Service) in 2007 will be delivered in the first quarter of 2009. These Falcon 2000LXs will enter the NetJets Middle East fractional ownership program.

NetJets Middle East displayed its first Hawker 750 at MEBA, marking the aircraft's Middle East launch. The Hawker 750 will be operated by Jeddah-based National Air Services and Bahrain-based Rizon Jet. Dubai based MAF is taking delivery of a new Hawker 900XP and HBC has delivered the first and second Beechcraft King Air 350 turboprops to Saudi Medevac with three more to be delivered by the end of the year. Gulf Jet is taking delivery of the first Beechcraft King Air 350ER to be used for charter operations in the region and Hawker Beechcraft has recently opened a new sales office in Dubai.

Egyptian film star and producer Yousef Mansour became the first Middle Eastern customer of Project Phoenix and its distributor Action Aviation. A Phoenix CRJ will be used to fly martial arts expert Mansour and his crews on location.

Dubai-based Palm Aviation evp and ceo Samer Dabbagh and Serdar Goksal of MyJet Turkey believe that the Eclipse 500, which they are promoting jointly, will gain orders in the Middle East. Goksal says: "MyJet has placed an order for 120 aircraft; we believe that the Eclipse 500 will revolutionise air transportation and together with Palm Aviation we were pleased to introduce this revolution to MEBA visitors."

Analysts and officials predict that the Middle East market will continue to grow strongly. HE Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansoori, minister of economy and chairman of the General Civil Aviation Authority, confirms: "Business aviation traffic in the UAE is witnessing steady and healthy growth and is estimated at 1,300 movements monthly." The regional private jet industry is expected to grow from $500m to $800m annually by 2012. "The Middle East in general, and the Gulf States in particular, resemble a healthy market for business aviation aircraft."

Ali Al Naqbi, founding chairman of the Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA), says: "The monolithic markets of Europe and the US are turning their attentions to the Middle East. The region continues to defy global trends by posting positive growth figures. This is indicative of how the aerospace market is shifting; these are very exciting times."

MEBAA, patron HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of Dubai's department of civil aviation and chairman of Emirates Group, began with just 16 founding members and today has more than 150. By 2012 it is expected that membership will reach 300.

Ali Al Naqbi says he is already looking forward to the 2010 edition of the show. "We will be relocating to the purpose-built site at Dubai World Central for the next edition and are very confident that, in two years' time, we will see an even bigger and better show."

Alison Weller, director of F&E Aerospace, the company which organised MEBA 2008 on behalf of MEBAA, says MEBA 2008 was triple the size of the 2007 edition and showcased more than 70 aircraft worth US$1.6bn on its dedicated static park. Some 250 exhibitors from 30 countries attended the three day event. Event organisers F&E Aerospace report that MEBA 2008 also attracted 250 exhibitors from Europe, the US, Asia and the Middle East.

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