Gama Aviation has established a company in Saudi Arabia through a wholly owned venture with an undisclosed local partner, which will give it the opportunity to enter the lucrative market through the management of private aircraft.
Richard Lineveldt, Gama Aviation managing director, Middle East, said that the company (Static S8) had required clarity on the changes being introduced by the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) to the regulation of business jets before proceeding with its venture, which obtained regulatory approval in 2017.
GACA had originally set March 31 this year as the final deadline for registration changes, but then gave market participants an extra nine months to comply. In the case that pertains to Gama, these call for aircraft to be registered on a GACA operator certificate (OC) under Part 125 for non-commercial (private) operations. New regulations have also been promulgated under Part 121 special unscheduled (SU, previously known as GACA Part 135) for commercial charter operations.
“The Saudi authorities have changed some of the regulations, in terms of the operational structure [of business aviation]," Lineveldt said. "Initially, our main concern, because we had clients affected by it, was the change from Part 91 to Part 125. You can as an individual go and apply for your own Part 125 certificate or you can go with traditional management companies. We saw a potential business opportunity there because it is the largest market in the region, so we established a company in Saudi Arabia, which has obtained operating approval Part 125. So for the past year, we’ve had this approval, and we have slowly started to get the word out about it and hope it will be attractive to various clients."
Lineveldt said the company is based in Jeddah, where the majority of its clients are located and from where most of the aircraft located in Saudi Arabia tend to operate.
“We are [moving in] the traditional way in which Gama sets itself up in new territories. The shortest route to growing the local business to is to establish a private management business there. The next step is to install other avenues, charter being one of them,” he said.
“We haven’t started to work on the charter certificate. We will continue to look at the demand for aircraft charter [in Saudi Arabia] but our core business around the world is [managing] private aircraft for individuals and corporations. We will look to branch out into the rest of the services Gama offers, including maintenance and FBO.”
Lineveldt said Gama’s entry into the Saudi market was a prudent first move pending eventual development of a complete portfolio of services. He also implied that the Saudi market needed new blood.
“This is a very good time for Gama to come in as a well-established brand into the kingdom. We don’t have a legacy in Saudi Arabia. The market is calling out for a large, established operator of a reputable brand with no legacies."