ABACE Convention News

Subic Bay Promoted as an Easy and Economical Hub for Flights into Asia

 - March 27, 2012, 12:05 AM
Subic Bay in the Philippines offers an uncongested, economical alternative to major Asian gateway airports, such as Hong Kong.

Continued overcrowding and access problems at key Asia Pacific airports such as Hong Kong International mean that Subic Bay in the Philippines is well placed to serve as a business aviation hub for the region, according to Aviation Concepts, which last year opened an FBO there. The Guam-based company has seen growth in its aircraft charter, sales and management operations from Subic Bay, but president and CEO Terry Habeck also wants to attract other operators to use the FBO as a convenient and cost-effective staging post for trips into the region.

The former military air base at Subic Bay is about 80 minutes’ flying time from Hong Kong, where growing airline traffic means that slots and parking space for business aircraft are very constrained. According to Habeck, it can take up to five days to get permission to land in Hong Kong and then operators face large bills for landing, handling and parking fees. Landing approvals for Subic Bay can be secured in just a few hours and costs are a fraction of those at the region’s larger airports. Technical stops there can be completed in just 45 minutes.

Aviation Concepts has just over 161,000 sq ft (15,000 sq m) of hangar and office space at Subic Bay, with plenty of scope to expand its existing handling and line maintenance service. Another advantage of the location is that the airport is a Freeport, making it easy to import aircraft, parts and fuel without being subject to costly and time-consuming importation process.

According to Habeck’s estimates, an aircraft that would incur total fees of $6,000 at Hong Kong would pay only around $600 at Subic Bay. As of press time, the cost of Jet-A fuel was approximately $1.50 per gallon less at Subic Bay than at Hong Kong. Hangar space is available at Subic Bay for around $5,000 per month. Habeck claimed that aircraft parked outside in Hong Kong can be damaged by corrosive chemicals emitted into the atmosphere by nearby factories.

One potential driver of rising itinerant business aircraft traffic at Subic Bay is the growing numbers of super-yachts docking at the nearby marina. By comparison, Hong Kong also is becoming congested in terms of maritime traffic.

Meanwhile, U.S.-owned Aviation Concepts is continuing to expand both the cabin size and range of its charter fleet and has announced plans to add a Bombardier Global 6000 and a Boeing Business Jet in September 2012. The operation is approved to both IS-BAO and Argus Platinum safety standards. Here at the ABACE show in Shanghai, the company is displaying a Challenger 605 aircraft in front of the Bombardier chalet. The company already operates two other Global Express family models and a Gulfstream G550.

Aviation Concepts, which entered the Asia Pacific market back in 2001, also has just opened a new sales and marketing office in Hong Kong. Habeck said this will allow the company to service growing numbers of Chinese owners looking for a more convenient way to manage their aircraft. In many cases, this means registering and basing them outside mainland China, where the tax and importation rules can still be prohibitively costly and cumbersome.

Habeck said that Aviation Concepts’ charter operations in the Asia Pacific region have been boosted since it opened the base at Subic Bay. In part, this is because its empty-leg operating costs are considerably lower when flying out of the Philippines than from the main base on the Pacific island of Guam. In recent months, the company has seen a 25-percent increase in demand for charter in the Japanese market.

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When air courier giant FedEx left its Subic Bay Asia-Pacific hub at the close of the last decade, we at the Subic Bay International Airport felt our backs heavily pressed against the wall. As anticipated, revenues nosedived and a cloud of gloominess rustled in the air. We thought it's just a matter of time before we bid adieu to an air facility that played pivotal roles in world history. Until Aviation Concept, Inc. broke ground a little over a year ago that SBIA felt a renewed sense of hope as it tallies with the niche concept that SBIA had thought about and pondered through. With this positive development it may not be wishful thinking to say that SBIA is poised for a new breathtaking takeoff.

Ted, thanks for the comment. It’s good to know Subic Bay airport is poised for increasing activity. There have been so many airports shutting down for so many years and so few new ones being built that it is always good news when any airport makes a comeback.

Randy Padfield, AIN Editor-in-Chief

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