An undisclosed Saudi Arabian company has ordered a VIP-configured Airbus A340-200. The aircraft, renowned as the world’s longest commercial airliner, is to be delivered green by the end of 2006 and sent for outfitting to an s-yet-unannounced completions center. Jeddah-based National Air Services will operate the A340 on behalf of he client. NAS already flies a fleet of VIP A320 jetliners, including one for the same customer.
Dubai Air Show » November 20, 2005
Amman, Jordan-based executive charter operator Arab Wings has taken delivery of a new Cessna Citation XLS jet. The first aircraft of its type in the Middle East, the XLS has joined a fleet that already consists of a Bombardier Challenger 604 and a Raytheon Beech King Air 200. The aircraft fly out of Amman’s downtown Marka International Airport to points within the Middle East and into Europe.
Executive charter operator Cirrus Middle East has joined forces with flight planner Universal Weather & Aviation to open a new FBO at Lebanon’s Beirut International Airport. The partners are the first company to apply for Lebanon’s new general handling certificate. Trading under the name Universal Aviation Beirut, the FBO operates from the airport’s general aviation terminal.
Charter operator Bahrain Executive Air Services Co. (Bexair) is announcing the launch of a new aircraft financing operation here at the show. The firm plans to provide business aircraft handling services at an undisclosed Middle Eastern airport, as well as for new passenger shuttle and cargo operations.
The rapid growth of Abu Dhabi-based executive charter group Royal Jet paints a vivid illustration of the pace of business aviation expansion in the Middle East. The company started life just two years ago with a single Boeing Business Jet and its fleet has since grown by three more BBJs, two Gulfstream 300s and a Bombardier Challenger 300.
Perhaps contrary to the impressions of outsiders, flying business aircraft into and within the Middle East is not difficult. At least that seems to be the consensus of those who arrange planning and handling for international flight operations in this part of the world.
According to Universal Weather, ground handling in the Middle East has improved, driven by increased traffic and expectations of higher levels of service. Dubai, which serves a higher volume of business aviation traffic than most other Middle East destinations, remains the standard bearer.
Nevertheless, flight handlers offer some warnings that may not seem instinctive to Western visitors:
The idea of aircraft fractional ownership took some time to germinate in the Middle East. But the seed NetJets Middle East planted in 1999 has now started to bear fruit, according to company president Mohammed Al-Zeer. “Our biggest challenge at this point is to add aircraft quickly enough to meet demand,” he told Aviation International News.
Analysis of the national aircraft registers of Middle Eastern countries gives the strong impression that next to no private or corporate flying happens in the region. In fact, the ramps of Middle Eastern airports are routinely occupied by aircraft owned by local individuals and companies that have opted to register them in places like Bermuda, Switzerland, the Cayman Islands and the U.S.
The number of business jets registered in Middle Eastern countries has grown by about one-fifth over the past 10 years. By the standards of other still emerging markets like Europe (45 percent growth over the same period), the Middle East’s 18-percent fleet growth doesn’t inspire awe. It does, however, dwarf the 8-percent hike seen in Asia–a market over which most business aircraft makers salivate.