International Wings Group (IWG), the privately owned, Jordan-based aviation concern, has won the management contract for Iraq Gate, the first private jet company with an air operator’s certificate (AOC) in Iraq. It said its unit, Arab Wings (Stand 2418), the Jordanian charter unit of IWG, won the contract in June.
“We established and now manage an Iraqi AOC, a company called Iraq Gate, the first business-jet AOC in Iraq. This AOC will be fully utilized by one of the major oil and gas companies in Iraq,” said Ahmad Abu Ghazaleh, CEO of Arab Wings. “Iraq is expanding and we’ll add more business in terms of business aviation and maybe larger jets in 2014,” he added. “We currently have two Hawker 800XPs and one King Air B200. Being the first business-jet operator in Iraq is not a small step. Arab Wings was chosen to establish the AOC and to manage Iraq Gate.”
Arab Wings and Gulf Wings, its UAE-based subsidiary, have expanded further in terms of aircraft under management this year, Abu Ghazaleh said. “We’ve added another Legacy 600 to Arab Wings. We’ve also added a Citation XLS. We are operating in different regions. Arab Wings’ Jordanian fleet is 14 aircraft. Gulf Wings has added two aircraft this year, and has six in the fleet.”
Aviation training has proved to be another growth area for the group, he said. “We are very advanced right now in terms of education in aviation studies. We have a large number of students and are attracting more. We were also awarded a contract by the U.S. Air Force to train students. That’s a big credit to us. It is a very big program on the aircraft and power plant side.”
IWG owns the Royal Jordanian Air Academy (RJAA), which today has 3,000 students on its books. “We have the largest flight academy in the [region]. We are flying 27,000 training hours a year. We are already training over 400 pilots from all over the Middle East at the moment. Jordanians are a minority, probably 20 percent. The rest are from the region, mostly the Gulf and North Africa. RJAA teaches pilots and high-school graduates [who want to become] commercial pilots and technicians.”
Capt. Mohammed Khawaldeh, director general of RJAA, and a former brigadier-general in the Royal Jordanian Air Force, said the academy is a force to be reckoned with in the Middle East region. “Today I have 400 student pilots and 800 technicians from 20 different countries,” he said.
The academy was established in 1966, three years after the founding of the national airline, when the then-ruler King Hussein decided to train pilots locally, since 90 percent were then nonnationals. A flying club was upgraded to an academy granting commercial licenses in 1970. “In 1975 we invited Oxford Flight School to assist in our activities. The British trained pilots, [but] the last of them left in 1994,” he said. “Since then we have trained commercial pilots from Jordan and around the region.”
MRO training started in 1998 and the academy was privatized in 2003. “In two years, we went from nine to 52 classrooms, which gave us the capacity to recruit more students.” In 2008 a branch opened in Aqaba.
“Arab Wings owns and manages about 24 aircraft [for the academy],” said Khawaldeh. “Our fleet is 22 Piper aircraft and four simulators, used to fly around 26,000 hours minimum.” Simulators are the CRJ 700, the AST 3000, the Alsim ALX and the Mechtronix Ascent FNPT II.
“That means graduating around 130 pilots per year. Since 2008, we’ve recruited around 8,000 students, between commercial pilots, technicians and refresher courses, and have had 5,000 pilot and engineering graduates in the past 12 years,” he said.
“Only last year, we won a contract with the U.S. government to train Iraqi air force technicians for the F-15. We deal direct with the Americans on this contract. The first squadron of technicians, 359 students, arrived in September 2012 and they will graduate in 2014. We are expecting the second squadron in late October. New graduates will go to the U.S. for a very short period to do type training. This is saving time and money for the Iraqis.”
IWG also owns the Queen Noor Technical College (QNTC), which trains students as air traffic controllers, and also offers refresher courses. It grants diplomas and degrees in aviation studies.
“In 2007, QNTC was put out for privatization and the academy bought out the college,” he said. “QNTC specializes in all aspects of civil aviation training, such as ATC, meteorology, radar, safety, security and airport engineering; that is, runways, lighting, communications, navigation equipment. Training involves six months’ English-language training and two years technical aeronautical [work].”
The college is a community college, approved by the Ministry of Higher Education, and awards degrees in mechatronics, communications, electronics and computing, he said. “Between the two companies, we can accommodate any request concerning aviation other than type training. If someone wants to fly an Airbus, he has to go [there] to do that. More than half my flying and technical staff are retired air force officers. They have a large amount of experience under their belts. Although they are heavily civilian, we run the concept of military type, in discipline, uniform and equipment.”
Khawaldeh is acutely aware of the region’s pilot shortage, and the possible effects. “Our annual output today is 130 pilots but we are looking to increase this to 200. Emirates alone needs five pilots each day (or 1,800 a year). More than 75 percent of pilots with Royal Jordanian today are our graduates. RJAA has graduates in more than 20 airlines today. We have graduated hundreds of Algerian and Libyan pilots and they are manning airplanes all over [the world]. Now we are in the process of establishing a new academy in Erbil. I hope at the beginning of 2014 we will start our work [there]. That’s another way of expanding our operations and helping the region produce pilots.”