By Ahmad Lala
Nearly 50 airplanes have been left abandoned and will be dismantled by Ras Al Khaimah International Airport
The UAE’s Ras Al Khaimah International Airport is
set to become a regional hub for the scrapping and dismantling of old aircraft,
with work already under way on around 20 aircraft that have been left abandoned
at the airport for a number of years.
In a report in Abu Dhabi’s The National newspaper in
May, it stated that about 20 aircraft have been abandoned at the airport for
several years, with the whereabouts of some of the owners unknown.
In addition, another 30 aircraft have been left abandoned at
Fujairah airport, the report added.
Mohammed Qazi, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah International
Airport, said the airport had sought tenders for the scrapping of the aircraft
and he told Aviation Business Middle East the exercise was “the first and only
dismantling of an aircraft to be done in the region”.
“In doing this, Ras Al Khaimah becomes very
prominent on the global map for aircraft life-cycle management, an area which
is growing,” Qazi added.
The move is part of the diversification of services
offered by the airport after it went through an uncertain period earlier this
When RAK Airways announced on January 1 this year
that it was suspending operations with immediate effect – the second time the
carrier had stopped flying in its short six year existence – the future seemed
bleak for the airline’s home base at Ras Al Khaimah International Airport.
Five weeks later however, an announcement was made
that RAK Airport would become a new base for Air Arabia.
In a span of a few weeks, the airport had gone from
being a home base for a struggling carrier to being the home of arguably the
most successful low-cost airline in the Middle East. Behind the scenes, though,
it was not as simple.
Qazi said the airport’s executives had been working
on nine different back-up plans in the lead -up to RAK Airway’s shutdown.
“In any business you have risks, and you always
have to have mitigation strategies in place. In our business, if there is any
airline or customer alone on which you rely, then there is a high risk,” said
“RAK Airways was struggling, and having been in
aviation for a while, the feeling was that something’s got to give, and that
came about on the 31st of December.
“Obviously we are a separate entity; RAK Airways
wasn’t our business, so we didn’t know what decisions were going to be made but
it was a general risk strategy, where we knew there was a risk, and to mitigate
that we had to find a replacement and we were prepared for it. By then, in all
honesty, we had prepared nine plans: nine possible scenarios,” he added.
On February 2, the partnership between the
Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), Ras Al Khaimah and Air Arabia was
announced. The low cost carrier launched its first flight on May 6, and
currently has two new Airbus A320 aircraft based at the airport, from which it
offers direct services to eight routes, with more to expected follow.
“Air Arabia is a key component of Ras Al Khaimah’s
aviation strategy,” said Qazi. “Their being a UAE-based airline was very
helpful for us because it just expedites the whole thing. We are very fortunate
to have them with us, because it is a reputable and reliable airline. It is the
largest low-cost airline in the region and a successful business. In any
business, if your customer is successful, your business will be successful. So
we’re looking forward to working with them and growing the airport.”
Air Arabia is coming into an airport that has been
investing strongly in its infrastructure and systems during the past two years.
RAK Airport signed a 10-year contract with Arinc, which has since been bought
by Rockwell Collins, to implement multiple system upgrades at the airport in
“In addition to that, we are pursuing a cargo
strategy alongside an airport cargo freezone. So that is very much a live
project that we’re working on,” said Qazi.
With the new initiatives in place, and Air Arabia
as a base carrier, the future now looks a lot brighter for the airport. Qazi is
even ready to welcome additional carriers to the RAK International.
“One of the issues in the country is airspace and
congestion, something that IATA picked up on. But Ras Al Khaimah Airspace is
relatively quieter, and we don’t have any slots issues, as we manage our own
slots on the ground. We also manage most of the supply chain as well. If you
combine all of the different components, or join all the dots, it becomes a
very valuable proposition for airlines considering other airports within the
UAE, if they are struggling to find the right slots,” said Qazi.
“And we support them quite favourably in terms of
So aircraft just fly into RAK or Fujairah and their crew walk away? All aircraft are registered with their relevant civil aviation authorities and all operators will have an AOC. Some aircraft may also have registered mortgages. So it is not very difficult to track down the owner of an aircraft.
Unless you are a Ghanain registered DC-8 no longer doing business with DHL for flights from BAH to points in Afghanistan or Iraq or some AN-12 registered in one of the 'stans. Check out the airports' satellite images and you can see them.