Regulatory Confusion in Saudi Arabia Fails to Stymie Optimism

 - July 2, 2018, 10:39 AM

New regulations issued by Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) on bizjet operations, particularly those registered in jurisdictions outside the kingdom, failed to produce clarity of understanding from a three-man panel. Speaking at a recent Dubai conference, the panel was unclear on what the new regulations would mean and when they would be implemented.

GACA released the New Aviation Safety Regulation on March 1, 2016. “The new Regulations are applied to all civil aviation activities within the Kingdom’s airspace,” its website said. Aircraft owned by royal family members are understood often to waive full compliance with regulatory oversight. Yosef F. Hafiz and Capt. Mohammed al Gabbas, both of Saudi aircraft management company NasJet, and Oliver Tebbit, a Dubai-based lawyer with Watson Farley Williams, offered varying interpretations of GACA’s efforts to get a grip on a difficult market and monitor the movements and ownership of aircraft based outside Saudi Arabia but frequently operating from inside the kingdom. International registries listing Saudi-owned aircraft have tried to team up to monitor and clarify the situation.

“The Saudi market is a very unique market. In terms of foreign regulation, the oversight that GACA has is relatively limited,” Tebbit said. Hafiz said the new regime of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is driving business aviation growth in Saudi Arabia. “He has a vision. His objective was to convey to us that it makes sense that we all [believe in it]. I think we are all trying to drive his vision forward…to diversify the economy.”

Hafiz said there are now 30 business jets under the NasJet umbrella. “We [also] manage aircraft owned by non-Saudis. Everybody is asking to base aircraft in Saudi Arabia because that is where the market is. The government is…driving all of this. They are purchasing a lot of hours. Saudi Arabia is trying to open up. We are going to see a lot of opportunities for foreign investors. He [Mohammed bin Salman] wants them to come in.”