Bahrain operator expands fleet, enters leasing market

 - September 25, 2006, 11:35 AM

Bahrain-based charter operator Bexair is trying to expand the Middle East’s business aircraft fleet through its new venture, Arabian Aircraft & Equipment Leasing (AAELCO). At the same time, the privately owned company is expanding its own fleet by placing an order for two new Cessna Citation XLSes as well as an option for a third.

Arranging financing for aircraft purchases hasn’t always been straightforward in this part of the world, partly due to Islamic restrictions on loan terms. But, according to Bexair CEO Mansour Al-Tassan, the company’s new lease packages are generating interest among Middle Eastern customers. “There is demand [for business aircraft] from buyers, but they can’t get the financing from the banks,” he told AIN. “If they come to Bexair they can get the financing through AAELCO and we can manage the aircraft as well.”

Bexair ordered the new Citation XLSes at the end of November’s Dubai Air Show. The airplanes will join a fleet that already includes a Citation Bravo and an Excel.
Al-Tassan said the XLS’s APU-powered air conditioning system is a particularly
attractive feature for an aircraft operating in the heat of the Middle East.

In October, Bexair took delivery of its second Bombardier Challenger 604, and it was set to receive a third before the end of last month. The company, which already operates a Challenger 601-3R, is an operating partner in Bombardier’s Skyjet International fixed-rate charter program. It operates from its own VIP terminal at Bahrain International Airport.

Bexair’s goal in establishing the leasing operation is to offer full service for prospective new aircraft owners in the Middle East, starting with guidance on which type to buy and including pre-buy inspection of used aircraft and completion of new models, as well as maintenance, crews and full management services. The company can also make owners’ aircraft available on the charter market under its own operator’s certificate so owners can recoup some of their costs.

According to Cessna, it will have 30 Citations operating in the Middle East by the beginning of this year. Senior vice president of sales and marketing Roger Whyte said that about 20 of these have been sold in the past 18 months, indicating a marked upturn in demand for business aviation in the region.

During the course of last year, Cessna’s local dealer, Wallan Aviation, sold more Citations than any of the U.S. manufacturer’s authorized sales representatives around the world. Wallan, based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has received its own operators certificate and will launch an executive charter service called Business Wings this year.