Cessna has provided firm evidence that business aviation in the Middle East is still in growth mode by delivering four of its Citation business jets to customers here at the Dubai Airshow. The U.S. manufacturer also has announced a new product support initiative (see below).
Yesterday, Arab Wings of Jordan took delivery of a new Citation Sovereign, while Egyptian Aviation Academy received the first of four Mustangs it has on order and the Algerian government’s navigation authority ENNA got a new XLS+ model. On Sunday, local Citation distributor Wallan Aviation of Saudi Arabia assumed ownership of a Citation X jet, the first to be fitted with new elliptical winglets.
The winglets can deliver additional range of up to 480 nm carrying six passengers out of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The modification costs approximately $600,000, including installation.
According to Cessna’s international sales v-p, Trevor Esling, the Middle East market has not been untouched by the financial crisis but there is still plenty of growth potential. He told AIN the company is finding fresh demand for aircraft right across its Citation product family. “There will be more growth here over the next five to ten years, especially as [Middle Eastern authorities] free up airspace, but at the moment sales are relatively slow,” Esling said.
Most aircraft deals involve financing and Cessna’s parent company Textron recently established a $500 million line of credit through the U.S. Exim Bank. “This means deals can be easily achieved and lack of finance is not a hindrance,” said Esling.
Wallan Aviation chairman Saad Wallan commented that softening economic conditions in the Middle East over the past 12 months have prompted “a lot of people to ask questions and buy smarter.” He noted that many customers want to downsize from larger airplanes to smaller ones, such as the mid-size Citation Sovereign, which is quite popular in the region, but also the Citation XLS and CJ3.
“They are asking questions based on cost of operation and range, and buying aircraft based on the mission. This has been good for us,” he said. Wallan estimated that the charter market in the region has been down about 20 percent, but said general aviation remains important for businesses in the region and he predicted a doubling of activity in three to four years.
That said, Esling did acknowledge that there had been strong demand for Cessna’s now-abandoned Citation Columbus large-cabin, longer-range jet and that this is a product segment that the manufacturer will eventually have to fill if it wants to avoid losing clients to rivals with bigger models than its top-of-the-range Citation X. “The main requirement is to be able to fly Dubai to London nonstop, which the X cannot do,” he said.
Bringing Service and Support Right to the Customer’s Door
Cessna’s on-site customer support has taken a step up with a new offering called Service Direct, said Mark Paolucci, senior v-p customer service in Dubai yesterday. While Cessna’s ground-based mobile-support units and its Air Response Team have been responding to customers’ aircraft-on-the-ground (AOG) calls for sometime, Service Direct will bring scheduled maintenance directly to customers’ facilities.