The Gulf region is recognized as one of the key markets for private aviation, and Middle East Business Aviation Association (Stand 1751) chairman Ali Al Naqbi is determined to help shape it as a safe one. To this end he is proposing to set up an informal working group dubbed “Middle East Control,” rather like the early days of Eurocontrol when the six founding member states collaborated to achieve integrated air traffic services across Europe. With 22 jurisdictions covering the Middle East and North African (MENA) region, Al Naqbi is aware he has a lot of work ahead.
“This is not necessarily a government-backed entity, rather a private grouping of small companies working together to start something that we hope will be eventually be adopted across the whole MENA region,” he told AIN.
The Gulf has had a rough ride recently with political instability in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen. However, Al Naqbi said that, with the exception of Egypt, the combined markets represent less than 5 percent of the Middle East’s private aviation market. “In the long term this will be good for the industry when things settle. The situation has also had a positive effect on movements in neighboring countries,” he explained.
The “grey,” or illegal, market is another of the problems MEBAA would like to tackle. Al Naqbi declined to put a figure on the number of such flights in the region, but said that the education process to counter them would have to involve airports, brokers, users and fixed-base operators. He said, “The GCAA has to impose rules, but airports cannot monitor all the legal requirements. The responsibility should also go to the FBO that releases the aircraft.”
To raise awareness of the dangers of operating illegally and gather support for its initiatives, MEBAA is to run three education sessions throughout the region over the next year. Dates and venues are still under discussion, but Al Naqbi is a firm believer in outreach work. “We have to encourage our members to take these issues to governments to raise awareness,” he stressed.
MEBAA would also like to receive more support from the mature business aviation associations. “I’d like to see more minimum cooperation between MEBAA and groups from more established markets,” he said. “The sector in the Middle East has really only just started.” His proposal is to create a common pool of information in a shared database to help counter security issues and shape a global business jet market. “We can’t impose rules, but we can be proactive in making suggestions to operators, which would make the authorities happy as well,” he added.