The second biannual MEBA Conference (MEBAC) convened in Dubai Marina today to tackle the issues facing the regional industry, underscoring evils posed by the gray market and the disconnect between regional operators and regulators as they attempt to curb it. The gray market–when an aircraft carries paying passengers without an air operating certificate–has caused consternation in the business aviation industry in the Middle East, as legitimate operators see earnings whittled away by fly-by-night operators cutting corners and failing to provide proper insurance.
“One of the big problems we face is that we don’t have a [concise] definition of what is illegal,” said lawyer Aoife O’ Sullivan of Gates and Partners. She said regional regulators were too cautious and needed to do a better job of identifying where accountability lay.
Outside voices speaking on the regulators’ panel warned that it might take an accident for the region to really wake up to the dangers of the gray market. “Are you that good or that lucky?” asked Louis Sorrentino III, senior vice president and managing director for safety, security and ops at ICF SH&E. “Don’t take for granted that we had a great run, and zero accidents [in the region.]”