Firms line up to secure a berth at Dubai World Central
The interested companies cover diverse activities including aviation leasing, handling, maintenance, painting and décor services, said General Aviation of Dubai Airports's General Manager Jamal Zaal bin Krishan.
The aviation body handles all operations other than commercial or military and includes private jets and those leased by businessmen, helicopters, ambulance aircraft, disaster relief and aerial photography aircraft.
In an exclusive interview with Emirates Business about the sector in Dubai, Bin Krishan said he expected general aviation flights to grow to 13,000 in 2008, from 9,800 last year. Such flights are also expected to grow by 25 per cent over the next few years to 100,000 by 2020.
While the sector is growing, it is suffering from a shortage of pilots, technicians and maintenance engineers, he said. Around half of the desired positions remain empty due to the shortage, he noted.
He said scores of Saudi, Kuwaiti, Qatari and Indian firms like to launch their private leasing and maintenance operations as well as offer general aviation services at Al Maktoum airport. Many of these companies will start receiving their fleets by the end of 2009 according to agreements with makers of small, medium and large aircraft, said Bin Krishan.
The general manager said Al Maktoum Airport is now studying the requests to select the most appropriate and experienced companies in terms of crews and fleet safety, adding a general aviation building will be opened at Dubai International Airport soon and a second one at Al Maktoum International Airport in the first quarter of 2009.
Bin Krishan said Dubai started general aviation service in early 1988.
He attributed the forecast growth to facilities extended by Dubai Airport as a world tourism, aviation, business and logistics centre. The current growth of general aviation flights in Dubai is around 20 per cent, said bin Krishan, adding that given the Dubai strategy plan to attract some 15 million tourists, growth rates are expected to be higher than forecast.
Other challenges facing general aviation organisation are crowded airspace and shortage of training colleges and institutes, according to Bin Krishan.
He said a private aircraft is given the same treatment as that of commercial aircraft since they occupy the same airspace.
But Dubai Airport, he added, has overcome the problem through the use of modern technologies and improving the efficiency of aerial navigation staff, which leads to a fair and safe distribution of airline flights, be them general or commercial. Aircraft leasing companies complain about lack of businessmen flight services in some Middle East airports, which are available at Dubai Airport.
This means a loss of the basic privilege of general transport; that is, the element of control of departure and arrival timings.
Bin Krishan spoke of a plan to conclude agreements on reciprocal treatment basis with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Syria and Jordan, especially that Jordan represents a transit stopover for Dubai-Europe trips, in a way as to have those countries offering the same services as those extended by Dubai Airport to such type of trips.
On to what extent has the general aviation sector and aircraft leasing companies have been affected by oil prices, Bin Krishan said people renting the aircraft can cover the fuel cost within the airplane's lease.
Bin Krishan said manufacturers of leasing aircraft have the tendency of making aircraft that consume less oil by using fuel-efficient modern engines.
On the possibility of shifting general aviation flights to Al Maktoum Airport after the opening of the cargo and commercial aviation phases during the first and second quarters of next year, bin Krishan said some flights can be moved after providing places and services for private aircraft.
13,000: The number of general flights expected in Dubai in 2008
20%: The percentage of current growth of general aviation flights in Dubai