ExecuJet Aviation, which has made steady progress in the Asia Pacific region over the past few years, is set to open a new maintenance repair and overhaul center just outside Beijing this month through its local joint venture ExecuJet Haite Aviation Services. The Swiss-based group has offices in Beijing and in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, and is currently constructing an FBO in Bali.
Graeme Duckworth, managing director of ExecuJet Asia (Booth P510), told AIN said the company also has “a big focus on Singapore,” and picked up two aircraft for management at the Singapore Airshow in February. These will be handled from its offices at Kuala Lumpur’s Subang Airport, which also has Bombardier and Gulfstream service center capabilities. It is also concentrating on Indonesia, especially Bali. “We are moving into a new facility [there] in a couple of months,” he said.
P.T. ExecuJet Indonesia, which is a joint venture between ExecuJet and local partner P.T. Dimitri Utama Abadi, is gearing up to move to a new general aviation terminal in Bali. This will give the FBO about 10 times as much space as it occupies in the existing building, with a surface area of 34,000 sq ft (3,159 sq m) and three separate lounges. The Bali airport company is to build a pair of 27,000-sq-ft (2,508 sq m) hangars adjacent to the business aviation enclave’s 690,000 sq ft (64,101 sq m) of apron.
ExecuJet has relocated Gary Forster from its FBO in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to run the new operation. Duckworth explained that its Indonesian joint venture is running the new terminal on behalf of the government-owned airport company.
In terms of total number of aircraft under management, ExecuJet Asia currently has seven, “with a couple more coming. We’re starting to get a meaningful number now,” Duckworth said, suggesting that the first few are the hardest to get operational in a new region. Its aircraft management support services, for a worldwide fleet of around 150 jets, are coordinated from its base at Cambridge Airport in the UK.
Meanwhile, ExecuJet Australasia is offering a new managed aircraft for charter from Wellington, New Zealand–the first Gulfstream G650 available in the region. The Sydney-based division’s managing director, Darren McGoldrick, told AIN that his team is increasingly cooperating with colleagues across the Asia Pacific region to generate more aircraft management and charter business. It has three managed aircraft based in Perth and three in Sydney.
ExecuJet Australasia operates authorized service centers for Bombardier, Gulfstream and Beechcraft in Sydney and Melbourne. There is also an FBO in Sydney run for the group by Universal Aviation. The group has line maintenance facilities in Perth and Wellington, where is runs an FBO in partnership with Capital Jet Services.
“Over the past four years we have probably doubled our level of activity just in the Australasia market,” said McGoldrick. “A lot of it is driven by rising charter demand and the maintenance work that goes with it.” A significant part of the increased demand for private flights has come from wealthy Chinese travelers.
In Malaysia, ExecuJet has received European EASA Part 145 certification for its maintenance facility at Kuala Lumpur’s Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport. “There are quite a number of EASA-registered aircraft in the region,” Duckworth explained. The facility is a Bombardier authorized service center and also provides limited Gulfstream warranty service.
“The [Asian] market is certainly growing and is one we can work in–bearing in mind we work in parts of Africa and other developing countries. We see a lot of new aircraft coming in, especially in Southeast Asia…China, of course, has different challenges and opportunities,” he said. “China primarily is a market for the long-range, bigger cabin aircraft, though it is very similar to Southeast Asia.”
Duckworth said the scope for adding more FBOs in Asia is “relatively limited” as the market is “very centralized” in the main places like Singapore. For example, he said, “a lot of Singapore-based aircraft are Indonesian-owned.” The main centers tend to be in Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, although the company is not considering the latter for a base, as it is “pretty full.”
Professional Managers Needed
One issue that became apparent at the last two ABACE shows was that new buyers from Asia and China are tending to buy aircraft as if they are buying a car, without giving enough thought to operational and maintenance aspects. Duckworth said of operators in China: “A lot continue to go it alone and absorb into their companies, a lot of others outsource,” suggesting the message to buyers is perhaps getting through–that professional aircraft managers tend to be essential for all but companies with their own flight departments.
From a sales viewpoint, Duckworth said you have to “get in early” as owners in the region tend to stick with the set-up they start with. However, he added, there is an in-country opportunity for maintenance because “a lot of aircraft leave the country for maintenance.” With used aircraft starting to feature in the market, and with more start-ups and owners wanting to charter aircraft, ExecuJet sees potential there, too. “There has been a movement toward used aircraft, for example, where [people are] setting up their own AOCs to do charter.”
Operationally, Duckworth said, “Things seems to be improving” with permits, although he admitted, “We have to use outside agencies sometimes.”
Getting trained local personnel has been a challenge. “We try to use local people and have been very successful [in our bases around the world] in developing local people. But we have to start [in new places] with an expat[riate worker] base.” However, he added, “We have found some very good skills in China and Malaysia–although it’s always a challenge.”
And what of ABACE and its value to ExecuJet? “It exposes our brand and capabilities–we expect Asian, not just Chinese, business out of the show,” said Duckworth.