Navigating a startup bizav op in emerging markets

 - December 23, 2010, 7:11 AM

Bringing a new business aircraft into service has always been fraught with potential difficulties, but when the aircraft in question is going to earn its living in an emerging market, such as India or China, the potential for headaches is even greater. Having had to grapple with many such situations itself, business aviation services group Acass has made something of a specialty of handling entry-into-service challenges and believes it can spare owners and operators a lot of cost and frustration by getting involved in the process on their behalf.

According to Acass president Andre Khury, the main issues can relate to the local financial and tax implications of bringing an aircraft into service in a particular country–especially if that country does not have a developed business aviation industry and its regulators are not accustomed to the sector. The Canadian company can interact with lenders to help them understand the complexities of exporting an aircraft to any given country.

Another big factor can be ensuring that flight crew and maintenance staff are fully compliant with local requirements. "Getting the smallest aspect wrong can ground a new aircraft for months," he told AIN.

Having helped with importation paperwork, Acass can provide temporary crew to fly the new aircraft into the country where it is entering service and then provide cover while the owner's own crew is being trained and completing the approval process. It can then keep a pilot on site to serve as a training captain if necessary. Ensuring the crew's immigration status is in good order also can be challenging.

The company, which is based in Montreal and has offices in Dubai, Dallas and the UK, has more than 4,000 pilots on its placement database and is compliant with requirements for the International Standards for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) and for safety management systems (SMS). It has helped hundreds of operators in 80 countries.

"You need to know how to navigate cultural ways to get things done and be sensitive to how things get done," said Khury, referring to emerging business aviation markets. "Things generally take longer, and if you don't know what you are doing they will take even longer."

Infamously bureaucratic India is a classic case in point, and the process for registering an aircraft and its crew there can be excruciating. For example, all flight crew need to take a written exam, regardless of what qualifications they already hold. This exam can be taken only on two specific days each month and has to be taken in the capital, New Delhi. "So you need to plan how many crew you will need for the operation based on restrictions like this," Khury explained. "If a pilot leaves your company, the aircraft could be out of operation for months because you will need at least three months to replace him."

According to Acass, there are serious shortages of suitably qualified business aircraft pilots in regions such as Asia, South America and Africa. "The economic downturn has made aircrew more flexible and cost effective, but at the same time a lot of them are now out of ­currency [due to reduced flying activity]," concluded Khury.