Dubai-based Titan Aviation (Static Display) manages and operates a fleet of more than 30 aircraft and is planning to bring that size to 50 aircraft by the end of next year, managing director Sakeer Sheik told AIN.
The plan he outlined at EBACE of adding 10 aircraft in 2022 and then hitting 50 at the end of 2023 is progressing. “The addition of six aircraft since EBACE is a positive step,” he said. “I didn’t travel around much because I became busy in the U.S. If I had, we probably would’ve hit 10. Even so, we managed to add six airplanes. That’s a very positive step.”
Titan stepped up involvement in the U.S. market “quite aggressively” in the first half of 2022. “We have hired a full-time CEO, president, and general manager to turn the U.S. business around,” he said. “We have now got some traction in the U.S. market. We’re doing aircraft management, as well as charter sales. We have broadened the number of qualified people in the firm. That’s an expansion that we wanted to do at the time of EBACE.”
Sheik is keen to grow the fleet. “I believe we are on track: we have signed up six aircraft under management since June,” he said. “That’s also very progressive and something that we also wanted to do in the rest of the world. It’s a charter management model—a hybrid model. Some of the six are completely under our management, while two are under charter management, which means we sell the charters to the market. We’ve added aircraft to the fleet and we continue to do that.”
Expected 2022 flight hours could reach a target of around 7,000 hours. “The hours have consistently grown,” he said. “This is not just Titan; it’s the entire industry.”
He expects 2023 to be another excellent year, with more vacationers and wealthy families flying private for both leisure and corporate use. “The charter numbers have gone up,” he said. “Utilization has gone up. I believe that we are seeing an upswing since 2021; it’s been consistent and that’s the key here. Although people are talking about a recession in the U.S., you do have a slowdown.
“One area of concern is real estate; the market has slowed down in the U.S. Big companies are laying people off, but the private, business, and corporate aviation side is holding steady. Nothing has changed,” Sheik added. “At least that’s the U.S. indicator; no other region has been impacted as badly as the U.S. when it comes to inflation or loss of jobs. It’s been very positive, what’s been happening around us.”
As experienced by several competitors, Sheik sees more new market entrants moving from charter to ownership. “That’s very positive for companies like ours because it also feeds our management division,” he said. “Charter users moving to aircraft ownership is good for us, and that’s one of the strategies we are trying to develop because then we end up managing those airplanes for the new owners.”
The pandemic has played an important role, according to Sheik. “Corporates, businessmen, and families wanted to travel in a safer environment, not just for themselves but their colleagues and families,” he said, “They started flying private when they saw the efficiency and benefits.
“Once Covid was brought under control, they continued to fly private because it gave them flexibility they had not envisioned before. All of a sudden they found that money can be better utilized to save time. That’s what private aviation is all about.”
Titan continues to operate five air operator certificates (AOC) or equivalent: an FAA Part 135, San Marino, India, Indonesia, and a private Cayman license. It has now been a San Marino AOC holder and operator for five years.
“We have established ourselves very well in terms of understanding and implementation of the regulations,” he said. “We have grown our quality department to ensure that there are no slip-ups from our side. It’s a situation where we have established ourselves and it’s a very mature relationship because we know what the authority wants and always follow those guidelines. When we talk about flexibility, it’s about getting things done on time. They’re extremely cooperative and efficient in those aspects.”
Earlier this year, Titan added a Boeing BBJ to its fleet and is now on the lookout for more aircraft in the super midsize or large-cabin category. “We are in talks for another BBJ and an Airbus ACJ,” he said. “We are planning to add those. We always had the strength and now we also have the experience. We are looking at adding other widebody, long-range airplanes.”
Titan executed four aircraft sales transactions destined for its management and charter in India in the last five-six months. Better slot coordination at metro airports, ease of extending watch hours for airports with limited opening hours, and the installation of navaids to ensure safer operations were among the improvements Sheik identified.
“The requirement for, and the usage of, aircraft in India has gone up considerably,” he said. “Infrastructure has improved as the regulations have been very proactively modified, keeping the interest of everybody. That’s a very positive step.”
Titan faced a dilemma on the eve of the MEBAA Show as to which aircraft to put on static display since all were busy, Sheik said. “Titan Aviation’s global team is attending. We have a very big presence at MEBAA this time.
Titan’s venture into the U.S. market has set it apart from Indian peers. “I don’t think there is any other Indian company that has ventured into the U.S. market yet, but it’s a big market,” he said. “It’s got scope for many other players. There are already many existing players, local players, in the U.S., but then there are always opportunities. I was asked the same question when I moved to the U.S. in 2018: what was Titan going to do differently in the U.S., which was already a saturated market?
“We have established a services business around the world, and we continue to do the same business in the U.S. as well,” he said “You continue to grow, add airplanes and bring more people into the company. In this market, there’s opportunity for everybody.”