Falcon Aviation is moving ahead with plans to open a new business jet base maintenance hangar facility at Dubai's DWC in the new year, as the company continues to develop its oil and gas business in Abu Dhabi and Kuwait, the Falcon Aviation FBO at DWC’s VIP Terminal, and business jet and heli-charter services to VIP clients.
“Even though the aviation industry in the region, in general, faced headwinds during 2018, Falcon Aviation, because of its steady core businesses, continued to show sustainability and growth," said COO Raman Oberoi. "With the opening of newer avenues, the outlook for 2019 looks promising.”
Fleet growth has continued. The helicopter fleet consists of five types: Leonardo's AW189, AW169, and AW109, the Bell 412, and Airbus EC130. The fixed-wing fleet also has five types: the Bombardier Q400, Embraer Lineage and Legacy, and the Gulfstream G450 and G550. Pilatus PC-24 twin-jet delivery is slated for the last quarter of 2019, which will add another segment to Falcon’s VIP jet operations.
“With a total of 34 aircraft operating under Falcon Aviation’s AOC, we have one of the most diverse fleets in the region," he said. "This kind of operation demands a very high workload from MRO, CAMO, flight operations, training, and supply chain, which our team has learned to successfully manage over the years.”
In oil and gas helicopter contracts, Falcon continues to support key customers Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and Total. “In the past, we had 12 Bell 412s in our fleet to support these operations. However, in the last three years we brought in two AW189s to replace two of the Bell 412s, and added one AW169 to enhance our operations,” he said. “Our oil and gas customers have benefited from these new-generation helicopters. Falcon Aviation is the lead operator for AW169 and AW189 helicopter types in the world.”
Falcon serves ADNOC’s island operations by flying 700 passengers a day from Al Bateen Executive Airport’s Sheikh Zayed Terminal, which it also operates. “As ADNOC targets higher production levels in 2019," Oberoi said, "Falcon is fully geared up to support this increase in activity by offering an increase in helicopter and fixed-wing operations.”
In December 2017, Falcon won the tender for Kuwait Oil Company's (KOC) helicopter operations. With KOC, it has set up a large heliport and hangar facility in Kuwait's Ahmadi area. “Since it is the first time helicopters are being used in the Kuwaiti oil sector, [much] effort and care have gone into setting up these operations," he said. "Three new AW169s in KOC's colors have been brought in to meet the requirements of the long-term contract. An experienced set of pilots and engineers, along with supporting ground operations staff, are all geared up to start operations in December.”
Falcon has three types of business jets, the Embraer Lineage and Legacy and Gulfstream G450, in its fleet. “By improving the quality of service during the last year, [we have] been able to grow the customer base and increase the volume in VIP jet charter operations," said Oberoi. "In VIP helicopter operations, we added a new seven-seat AW169 this year, which has given us a cutting edge and added a new dimension to the quality of this service. We have three AW109 SP/S helicopters available to our increasing number of customers.”
In recent years, Falcon has seen steady growth in demand in sight-seeing operations. “With more than 33,000 passengers a year at the Falcon Aviation-operated Atlantis helipad in Dubai, this is now the second-busiest heliport in the world," he said. "To meet this growing demand, Falcon has added the fourth EC130 helicopter to its fleet."
Falcon is one of three participants at the DWC VIP Terminal. “Having successfully operated our five-star FBO at DWC VIP Terminal for over 18 months, [we have] been able to steadily grow this business. We forecast a busy season for our FBO operations." The Falcon FBO offers services such as VIP passenger handling, aircraft handling, parking, line maintenance, cleaning services, hangarage, maintenance, and helicopter charters.
Falcon’s new maintenance hangar at DWC is expected to open early next year. Built on an area of 24,000 sq m, the Code-F-qualified hangar is nearing completion. It also has 13,000 sq m2 of adjacent apron area for parking, to allow further development of the MRO business.
Besides providing MRO services to its own fixed-wing and rotary-wing fleet, Falcon has grown its third-party MRO business at its home base at Al Bateen Executive Airport in Abu Dhabi.
“Already with capabilities as an Embraer service center," said Oberoi, "and with Bombardier Q400, Bombardier, and Gulfstream [approvals], the new hangar at DWC will open soon and allow us to add further capabilities, such as an interiors workshop. With approvals from [Saudi Arabia's] GACA being obtained, and also with already existing approvals from the GCAA, EASA, Aruba, San Marino, and the Cayman Islands, this will give access to a wide but unserviced market in the region.”