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Bizjet travel becoming the rule
by Charles Alcock

The business aviation community is growing here in the Middle East as entrepreneurs outside the royal families come to appreciate the convenience and flexibility of private aircraft. Over the past decade, the number of business/ VIP/head-of-state aircraft registered in Middle East countries has grown by 28 percent from 189 to 241, according to statistics provided by London-based aviation data specialist Airclaims. The total includes 19 jets that currently are being stored by their operators.

Airclaims' fleet analysis over the past decade also shows growing numbers of purpose-built business aircraft (as opposed to specially equipped airliners). Manufacturers like Bombardier, Cessna and Raytheon have seen their customer base grow in the Middle East, but then so too have major airframers Boeing and Airbus.

Saudi Arabia still accounts for the lion's share of the Middle East fleet, with 109 aircraft. The next largest national contingent is here in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where 32 business aircraft are now registered. The other main countries with double-digit fleets are Iran (18), Egypt (17) and Israel (16).

Earlier this year, executive charter operator Royal Jet began operations from its headquarters in Abu Dhabi. The company is a joint venture between the emirate's head-of-state Amiri Flight and helicopter operator Abu Dhabi Aviation.

Royal Jet offers a Boeing Business Jet (BBJ), which entered service in May 2003, as well as a pair of Gulfstream 300s subsequently delivered in August and September. The BBJ cabin is fitted with 42 seats in a three-class configuration (22 first class, eight business class and 12 economy class). The economy seats can be removed to make more space. The G300s have 14 seats and can quickly be refitted for medical evacuation (medevac) work.

According to Royal Jet chief executive Capt. Tilmann Gabriel, demand for the new charter aircraft has proved to be very strong and the company is already looking to add more capacity during 2004. In Gabriel's view, the Middle East offers a very significant, untapped market for both executive charter and aircraft management. Until recently, he maintained, this market has been “amazingly under-developed”– held back by cultural obstacles to business aircraft being used beyond the highest echelons of royalty.

The BBJ is available for $9,800 per flight hour and the G300s for $6,000. Charter bookings have come from both locally based companies and individuals and visiting western corporations, as well as performing flights for UAE government officials and foreign heads-of-state. Block charter packages of between 100 and 300 flight hours are now being offered.

Over the summer months, Royal Jet used the BBJ for a weekly scheduled service between Abu Dhabi and Geneva on behalf of Gulf Air. It is now negotiating with the carrier to provide other scheduled services.

Royal Jet is making plans to build its own executive terminal at Abu Dhabi International Airport. It is now negotiating to have a presence in the new business aviation enclave at Dubai International Airport.

Dubai-based ExecuJet Middle East has just added a Bombardier Global Express business jet and a Pilatus PC-12 single turboprop to a charter fleet that already features a Learjet 60 and a Challenger 604. The company is Bombardier's Learjet distributor for the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. It is also the PC-12 distributor for the same territories.

Managing director Horm Irani confirmed that the business aviation customer base in the Middle East is broadening. He said that there is a distinct shift toward the routine use of aircraft as bona fide business tools, especially among younger generation Arab businessmen who are proving to be more “progressive” in this respect than their fathers. Most of the growth in charter demand experienced by ExecuJet is in the Gulf states.

As far as new aircraft sales are concerned, Irani commented that, “The Middle East is traditionally big iron territory, with customers wanting a lot of baggage space and range, but this profile is now changing and there is now much more scope for midsized and super-midsized aircraft like the new Challenger 300.”

ExecuJet is finding Middle Eastern clients to be more receptive to the benefits of having their aircraft managed and part-subsidized by work in the charter market. It is also fielding more inquiries about block charter and shared use of aircraft.

According to Maghradi Al Khodair, Jet Aviation Saudi Arabia's business development director and deputy general manager, most business aviation growth over the next two years will be focused on Dubai, Jordan, Bahrain and Lebanon. He said that plans are being made to open new FBOs and executive charter operations in many parts of the region. Jet Aviation Saudi Arabia has facilities in both Riyadh and Jeddah, providing maintenance and handling.

“Charter demand is growing fast in Saudi Arabia and there are not enough aircraft,” said Al Khodair. “Over the last six months there has been very strong growth and it is requiring aircraft to be brought in from Europe.”

This shortfall in capacity is essentially artificial. Only two companies–flagcarrier Saudi Arabian Airlines and National Air Services–are authorized for charter in Saudi Arabia. Al Khodair said he could not say if this restriction will be lifted.

Jet Aviation is managing a growing number of aircraft owned by Middle Eastern clients, according to Jürg Reuthinger, senior vice president and general manager of Jet Aviation Business Jets' management division. The group takes full responsibility for operating aircraft including Gulfstreams, BBJs, Challenger 604s and Dassault Falcons.

Fractional Ownership Takes Root

One of Jet Aviation's main customers in the region is the NetJets Middle East fractional ownership program and its operating partner NAS. NetJets was launched in the Middle East back in 1999 and now offers shares in Raytheon Hawker 800XPs, Falcon 2000s and GIV-SPs. According to the company around $1 billion worth of aircraft and resources have been committed to the Middle East program, but, as of press time, no details were available on the current fleet breakdown and future deliveries.

NetJets Middle East customers can choose between occupied hour pricing (based on acquisition cost, monthly management fees and fees for each flight hour spent in the aircraft) and “all-hours pricing” (with the same entry and management costs, but combined with a reduced hourly rate charged for both occupied and ferry flight hours). A standard one-eighth share in an aircraft guarantees access to 75 flight hours per year.

Bexair marketing support manager Sakeer Sheikh said that executive charter demand has been growing in the Middle East and that at least some of this is driven by security concerns. “Charter operations have not suffered the same ill-effects as mainstream international airlines, although there are flight disruptions due to closure of certain air routes in the region,” he stated.

Manufacturers See Wider Customer Base

Gulfstream Aerospace president Bryan Moss told Aviation International News that his company stands to benefit from the growth and diversification of business aviation in the Middle East thanks to its expanded product range. Whereas three years ago, the Savannah, Georgia manufacturer offered only three super-large aircraft types (known as the GIV, GIV-SP and GV), it now boasts an eight-member family that includes large, super-mid-sized and midsized products: the G100, G150, G200, G300, G400, G450, G500 and G550).

“In the past less attention was paid to aircraft acquisition and operating costs but it is now and that shows how the market is evolving,” he remarked. “We expect to see a mix of new business aviation applications in the region, including charter and fractional ownership.”

When Gulfstream's parent group General Dynamics acquired the former Galaxy Aerospace product range–the Astra SPX and the Galaxy, now known as the G150 and G200, respectively–there was concern that because the aircraft are substantially built by Israel Aircraft Industries might prove to be an obstacle to sales in the Arab world. But Moss said that the pragmatic appeal of both types has overridden any such political concerns, and the G200 is included in Gulfstream's display here at the Dubai show this week, along with a G400, a G550 and one of the Royal Jet G300s.

Gulfstream's sales representation in the region is largely run from its office in Cairo. It offers product support through the Jet Aviation operation in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where a field service representative is also based. A parts depot is located in Bahrain and Gulfstream's new European service center at London Luton Airport is also at the disposal of Middle Eastern customers.

Cessna senior sales and marketing vice president Roger Whyte acknowledged that the growing need for more pragmatic business aviation lift than that provided by VIP-configured airliners is boosting the Middle East market potential for the company's growing Citation family. In his view, the diversification of the region's economies away from the total dominance of the oil sector and increased intra-regional trade are important factors in this growth.

According to Whyte, the value placed on a stand-up cabin by Middle Eastern customers has increased the appeal of the Citation Excel and several of this type have now been sold in the region. Along with the Citation Sovereign, the Excel and the new XLS model offer sufficient range for most operators, with Europe reachable nonstop from many locations. The ability to fly direct to the former Soviet republics, with which Gulf state companies are increasingly trading, is another important attribute of the new Citations.

Cessna's Middle Eastern sales representation is largely focused on Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based Wallan Aviation. In addition to the Saudi Kingdom, the company covers Bahrain, the UAE, Yemen, Jordan and neighboring states. Other regional coverage is provided by Pakistan Aviation Aerospace and Turkey's Emekli Ticaret.

Product support for the Citation family is mainly provided from service centers outside the region, such as Jet Aviation's Zurich and Singapore facilities, the factory-owned service center in Paris, Ruag in Germany and Marshall Aerospace in the UK. The company also has field service representatives in various Middle Eastern locations.

Whyte indicated that legal restrictions on business aircraft ownership are still constituting an obstacle to growth in some countries such as Saudi Arabia. However, he concluded that increased pragmatism is gradually overcoming such limitations. Here at the Dubai show, Cessna is exhibiting a CitationJet 2, an Excel and a Citation X.

Outside North America, the Middle East has proved to be the most important market for Boeing Business Jets, accounting as it does for around a quarter of all BBJs delivered to date. What's more, of the six larger BBJ2 models to enter service so far, no less than five are in this part of the world.

“Historically there have been a lot of VIP 727s here and when it came to replacing these quite a few people wanted more baggage space than even the BBJ can offer,” explained Boeing Business Jets president Lee Monson. The BBJ2 offers about 100 percent more hold than the standard BBJ, and about 25 percent more cabin space as well.

Monson too has seen increased interest in business aviation among successful business people outside the immediate circles of Middle Eastern royalty and government. In his view, this is more common in countries other than Saudi Arabia.

However, he took the view that the region will still not see explosive growth in this market because of abiding legal restrictions. “There is still a lot of government influence over what people do,” he maintained, identifying limited scheduled airline service in the region as one of the key drivers of interest in business aviation.

That said, Monson added that the regulation of the charter market has proved to be relatively lax in terms of the way it is actually enforced and that this has resulted in something of a gray market for executive charter. He said that it is quite common for aircraft owners to lay on for-hire flights for business associates, friends and families on a semi-official basis. “It will be interesting to see if the regulations catch up with this.”

The U.S. manufacturer is in the process of doing a deal with Saudi engineering contractor Al-Salaam to provide maintenance cover for BBJ operators in the region. Customers can also turn to new-generation 737 operators in the region, such as Oman Air and Yemenia, for technical support.

Most BBJs in the region are fitted with just three or four of the fuel tanks that are optional on the type. This means that they typically have a range of up to around 5,000 nm and so can operate into Europe and, increasingly, eastward into Asia. One customer has had his aircraft fitted with nine fuel tanks and a relatively lightweight interior that allows him to fly nonstop to the U.S. West Coast and to Japan.

Monson was very candid in his assessment of prevailing geopolitical concerns in the Middle East. He said that the need to expand trade and commerce in the region presented significant opportunities for Boeing, but he also conceded that the manufacturer's U.S. roots are a potential drawback in view of political polarization.

Flight planning group Universal Weather and Aviation is responding to growth in business aviation traffic in the Middle East by seeking to expand its presence there. The U.S.-based group's Global Network of handling partners includes United Aviation Services in Damascus, Syria, National Air Services in Jordan and Z-Aviation Services in Cairo. It also has agents in most countries.

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Challenger remains number 1
The Challenger 604 remains Bombardiers best-seller. Last year, the Canadians sold 31 examples of the 26.2 million dollar business jet; 24 were sold in 2003. So far, a total of 128 business jets have left the production line, 39 more than 2003/04. About half of the jets sold were of the new Learjet 40, Challenger 300 and Global 5000 models. The positive business jet sales compensated for the falling sales figures for regional transport aircraft.

Chinese get to know Premier I
Business aviation has now also moved into communist China. There are even private owners of business jets. The Hangzhou-Daoyan Group has acquired a Beechcraft Premier I, which is to be used for business trips both within and outside China. Deerjet, the Hainan Airlines charter company, will be managing the aircraft. There is also a civilian aviation authority, which issued certification for the composite six-seater in November 2003.

King Air breaks through the 6,000 barrier
A total production figure of more than 1,000 is rarely achieved for civilian aircraft, but King Air has now reached the 6,000 mark. The first model in the expanding family was the King Air 90. The twin-engined machine flew for the first time more than 40 years ago. About 2,000 civilian and military 90's have been delivered to date. The current model, the C90B, in production since 1991, typically offers room for five passengers.

ATG Javelin: prototype takes shape
The unusual bizjet Javelin is taking concrete shape. The company base in Englewood, Colorado, was recently expanded and the prototype is now approaching completion. Functional tests are already being carried out for individual components in their own research and development facilities. The maiden flight is being prepared in close coordination with the FAA.

G150- prototype exhibited
The prototype of Gulfstream's new and lighter middle-class jet G150 was exhibited to the public in the middle of January. The presentation took place at Israel Aircraft Industries near Tel Aviv, where the eight- to ten-seater business jet is also to be built. The interior will then be fitted in Dallas, USA. The G150 will replace the G100, which has been on the market since 1996 as the Astra SPX. The maiden flight of the G150 has been planned for May and deliveries should commence in summer 2006.

Pilots and cabin crew: 100 employees sought
The Cirrus group will be offering new job opportunities to pilots, cabin crew and management staff. In total 100 jobs are to be created, including 30 cockpit jobs. Pilots are being sought for the Learjet 40/45 and 60, the Challenger 604, Dash 8 and Do328 Jet.

Complaint against expansion in Hahn
The parish of Traben-Trarbach has put in a complaint against the planned runway extension at Hahn airport. The plan is to allow runoff water to be diverted into a stream, which joins up with a drinking water spring. Moreover, the environmental group BUND believes that the extension might endanger the Mops bat.

Laser-pointers endanger air traffic
The US aviation authority, FAA, is worried about an increase in incidents in which laser -pointers have been aimed from the ground at aircraft on their landing approach. Pilots have been asked to report all such incidents to the air traffic control. Laser-pointers aimed at planes is not a new problem but there has been an increase in the numbers reported. In the first two weeks of January alone there were 31 incidents, and around 400 have been registered since 1990.


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Is Porsche buying back its aero-engines?
The Porsche aero-engine, production of which was stopped in 1989, is still causing losses for the otherwise highly profitable car manufacturer. Porsche developed the 210-HP aero engine on the basis of the 911 Boxer, and it was installed in a number of aircraft types. Porsche must now either keep spare parts in stock or manufacture new parts for all the engines still in operation, which is costing them millions each year. The plan is now to buy up all these aircraft and take them out of service completely.

TT62 : prototype flies
On 22 nd February test pilot Gérard Guillaumaud took off for the 15-minute maiden flight of the TT62. He flew a number of careful circuits at low altitude above the Baltic Sea island of Usedom. The TT62 is propelled by two rear-mounted Thielert diesel Centurion 4.0 engines. They each produce 228 kW (310 HP) and their power is transmitted by shafts to the 5-blade propellers.

New Piper increases production
The storms which damaged large parts of Florida in September 2004, also caused severe damage to the New Piper production plant in Vero Beach. The buildings have now been repaired to the extent that production can continue at its usual rate. However, the pre-hurricane personnel levels have still not been achieved, so New Piper is looking for new employees. Currently there are about 830 people employed in the factory; the target is 1,000. The US-manufacturer is confident that it will deliver more aircraft this year than in 2003 or 2004.

German Cirrus distributor
With all contracts secured, on 31 st January Cirrus Germany GmbH & Co KG was established. The company will be lead by Jan-Peter Fischer and will be responsible for marketing the Cirrus aircraft range in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The aircraft are manufactured in the US by Cirrus Design of Duluth, Minnesota. Cirrus Germany is based at Schönhagen airfield.

Donzdorf : self-ignition Fly-in
On Sunday 5 th May pilots can witness at first hand the full spectrum of aero-diesel technology at the Donzdorf airfield. Manufacturers and conversion companies will be exhibiting their products. Diamond Aircraft will be flying in with a DA40 TDI and the engine manufacturer Thielert will be arriving either with a Cessna or a Piper. One aircraft with a French sma-diesel is also expected, and also a diesel engine for ultralights. Test flights will be available. There will be no landing charges on that day and parking will be available for more than 100 aircraft.

Tannheim : even more aircraft expected
Tannheim, home of Germany's largest fly-in continues to grow. Given good weather, the organizer Mathias Dolderer expects between 800 and 100 aircraft from the 15 th to 17 th July. By comparison, in 2004 about 780 aircraft were counted. The Internet site tannkosh.com will be live at the end of March.

Strähle's Halberstadt now in Schorndorf
Since January 21 st the first German airliner, the Star, is now in the Schorndorfer city museum. With the Halberstadt CL IV D-71, and two other ex-military aircraft of the same type, Paul Ernst Strähle from Schorndorf established the first German airline in 1919.

Me 262 : giant step forward in flight-tests
Flight testing of the Messerschmitt Me 262 replica, the first jet fighter in the world, is now proceeding at full steam ahead. On 8 th February the jet flew with its undercarriage retracted for the first time. This now opens the door to test the jet across its full speed range.

Aquila : production re-starts
After the company bosses pulled the emergency cord on the finances by filing for bankruptcy in January, Aquila Technische Entwicklungen has now restarted the business. With a reduced team of 15 staff production has recommenced in Schönhagen. The next Aquila A 210 is to be delivered at the end of March.

New company name for DAS
After joining forces with Com-Air Aircraft Sales & Service GmbH, and the construction of its new workshops, Diamond Aircraft Service GmbH, based at Siegerland Airport, is now operating under the name “Air Alliance GmbH”.

EASA seeks reinforcement
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) based in Cologne is looking to employ staff from all areas of aviation. Information on the jobs available can be found at http://easa.eu.int/home/career_opp_en.html.

Tent replaces restaurant
Tent-gastronomics are on the menu at the Utersen airfield. The restaurant at the airfield burnt down at the end of 2004 so the flying school will be feeding the Hamburg pilots from a tent for the time being.

National flying class up to 600 kg MTOM
The European Microlight Federation (EMF) would like aircraft up to 600 kg MTOM to be taken out of the area of responsibility of EASA and be put under national jurisdiction. The UL class up to 450 kg (472.5 kg) is to remain as it is. An appropriate recommendation is to be made to the EASA via the Europe Air Sports.

Bitburg on the increase
In 2004 Bitburg airport recorded 6,512 flight movements, which is around 4,500 more than 2003. The former military base has had its civilian airfield status since the middle of 2004. Bitburg also has permission for night time VFR traffic. The IFR certification process is ongoing.

Fürstenfeldbruck open until further notice
The Fürstenfeldbruck military airfield will remain open to civil aviation for the time being. This is the result of a decision by the military regional authority to give up military flight operations at the site.

Flymap L: Clear and bright portable GPS
Stauff Systec (A3-512) has presented its new, compact GPS system called the Flymap L. The black anodised unit weighs 980 gm and measures 158 x 120 x 51 mm. This makes it suitable both for building into the cockpit or fitting to a knee board. The instrument has connectors for TCAS, AHRS and satellite telephones.

Traffic indicator system from Euro Telematik
Euro Telematik in Ulm (A3-301) is introducing a new traffic indicator system based on ADS-B technology. The system monitors both ground traffic at airports, moving aircraft and vehicles, and also airborne traffic when in flight. With this, the Euro Telematik solution takes over tasks that could previously only have been handled by expensive radar- and TCAS systems.

Flight Planner now with precipitation radar
The VFR flight planning software, Flight Planner, is now available with extended functionality. New in version 5.5 is the integration of the precipitation radar from pc_met. Current radar images are displayed over the ICAO map either as stills or as an animated sequence. The planned flight route can now be superimposed with a picture of the current precipitation conditions.

Jeppesen maps on cockpit displays
The multi-function displays, Flightmax EX5000 and EX500, now offer the electronic "Jeppview" maps from Jeppesen. Because the digital map sets also encompass approach- and taxi-way data the amount of paper maps required is drastically reduced. Keeping the maps current is a simple software update process.

Garrecht log book
The automatic compilation of block- and flight times along with simultaneous and automatic association of start- and destination airfields is made possible with a small GPS based panel unit. Garrecht (B1-334) will be exhibiting the instrument at AERO, and above all it should lighten the administrative burden of schools and clubs. Pilots will identify themselves before a flight with a chip identity card so that the data for accounts and invoicing can be allocated to the right person.

Peschges variometer introduces new display system
With the new display system, Peschges Variometer (A5-230) is setting the trend towards glass cockpits. At the AERO, the company from Aachen exhibited a range of new applications for the cockpits of ultra-light and motorised aircraft. Amongst them was an engine monitor with a colour display (10.4 inch), and a flight management system.

A very different flight book
The story begins with a real incident. A pilot, for whom flying had become the main reason for living, takes his own life at his home airfield by blowing himself up . Rainer Wochele asks the question 'why' in his novel 'Der Flieger'. Wochele has moved the geographic location to Swabia and motorised flight has been replaced with the gliding. "Der Flieger" from Rainer Wochele, Novel, 235 pages, Klöpfer & Meyer, Tübingen, 19.90 Euro .

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Strong interest in Medium Twin AB 139
A week after the large contract for 20 AB-139 helicopters (see aerokurier 3/2005) was signed, Bell/Augusta Aerospace has landed another big contract. The United Arab Emirates ordered eight of the new Medium Twin machines and with that increased the contract volume to 100 helicopters. Together these two contracts are estimated at 83 million US Dollars.

Major award for Frank Robinson
Frank Robinson, constructor and manufacturer of the worlds most successful helicopters, the R22 and R44, has now been officially promoted to one of the giants of aviation. In Los Angeles he received the Howard Hughes Memorial Award (HHMA) for his exceptional contribution towards promoting air- and space travel technology.

Dutch police cancel helicopter order with MD
The Dutch police have cancelled an order for eight MD-902 helicopters they had placed with MD Helicopters (MDHI) from Arizona and demanded the return of all down payments. According to Den Haag, the MHDI was unable to meet the weight reduction of the helicopters for their special mission requirements within the agreed time-frame.

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New aero-diesel
Engine specialist Ecofly from Böhl-Iggelheim is now offering the smart turbo diesel for aircraft. Silence Aircraft in Verl has fitted the 44 kW (60 HP) three-cylinder in an Experimental version of the Twister. The single-seater uses about five litres of diesel per hour. The maiden flight is yet to take place.

Vprop from Silence Aircraft
Silence Aircraft from Verl (A5-230) - famous for their development of the ultra-light single-seater Twister – will fly to the AERO with a new vario-prop. A small piece of electronics fitted into the spinner detects the speed of the aircraft and regulates the angle of the propeller blades automatically.

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