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Fri 12 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

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Jet set

Ali Al Naqbi, the founding chairman of the Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA), speaks about markets in the private aircraft sector and the success of the Middle East Business Aviation (MEBA) exhibition.

Ali Al Naqbi, the founding chairman of the Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA), speaks about markets in the private aircraft sector and the success of the Middle East Business Aviation (MEBA) exhibition.

Why did you set up this association?

I have spent 19 years in business aviation, working in various roles at Amiri flight and in 2005, I realised there was a new market emerging in private aviation. On the back of that we launched Royal Jet.

Saudi is still the biggest private aircraft operator [in the Middle East region] but the UAE is also growing very rapidly.

I thought we needed an Arab association to oversee this market so I put together another proposal to test the market. I read it out at a conference and the response was beyond my expectations. We got full support and so MEBA was launched in 2006. In May 2007, we also became members of the International Business Association (IBAC).

Which markets in the Middle East have seen the most growth in terms of business aviation?

Saudi is still the biggest private aircraft operator but the UAE is also growing very rapidly. Before we started the association there were few business jets, now we have around 50 aircraft. It is a really exciting time to be in business aviation.

How do you feel being part of an association has helped to promote business interests in the area?

Our association has a direct impact on the business aviation companies. The rules and regulations in this area form an interesting mix because for so long there was no association. Our role now is to create opportunities; we are looking at European and American aviation legislation and hope to adopt parts of it here in the region. The MEBA association is a platform for business aviation and charter.

Do you see any future investment in the market or new companies forming as a result?

This year in the UAE alone, we have seen three new companies launch. There are more than 20 requests for an Air Operators Certificate (AOC) for business jets in the UAE and there have been around 30 new requests in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the region. Saudi is by far still the biggest operator. All together there are 70 requests across the area and this is growing. This is fantastic for us.

Which new companies are going to be launched and what is the process of launching a company?

To launch a company you have to go through many security processes. To obtain an AOC you have to satisfy security, administration and technical criteria. Many of the companies which are approaching us are now in the administration stage.

However, some of the players are currently trying to obtain an AOC include Al Jaber Aviation, in Abu Dhabi, Al Faisal Aviation in Sharjah and Majestic Wing in Dubai. Many companies are in the process of establishing in the region and they are all continuing to buy aircraft.

What is the value of the private aviation market in the Middle East and how much aircraft is being bought across the region?

It is worth around US$500 million [in total for charter]. At last year's show we saw a lot of aircraft from the US and European markets looking to find a new home here in the Middle East. We gained a lot of sales from this region in 2007. I expect there to be growth in the second hand charter aircraft sector again in 2009.

What is the private jet aviation industry doing to address environmental concerns?

We are part of the international business aviation council and we have just submitted a paper to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) addressing environmental concerns.

We would like to see how we can contribute to the domestic and global picture. Today the business and airlines can work together. We are asking manufacturers to make engines which are friendlier to the environment.

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