Just spent three days in Dubai and Abu Dhabi interviewing some of the movers and shakers in the region's business aviation sector for our special which appears in our 4 December issue, ahead of that month's Middle East Business Aviation show.
The mood is, perhaps surprisingly, fairly upbeat. It is a long way from the heady, high double-digit annual growth of 2007 and 2008 - which saw a surge of speculative charter and management companies enter the market, anticipating continuing expansion. Most of them have disappeared. But for the companies that have survived, business is fairly steady: the Gulf's wealthy are still keen to charter big jets in particular.
I interviewed Ali Al Naqbi, founder of the regional association MEBAA, which organises the MEBA show. He still believes business aviation - in its strictest sense - is still in its infancy in the region. Yes, billionaires, government ministers and assorted royals love their large cabin jets. But US-style corporate aviation, where executives charter functional jets as pure business tools to make their working days more efficient, has not yet taken off and this can be seen in the fact that industry workhorses, such as Learjets, Citations and Hawkers, are almost invisible in this region, other than for perhaps medevac purposes.
One big issue in the Middle East is infrastructure and regulation. Other than in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and perhaps now Bahrain and Qatar, there is a dire shortage of FBOs. The laws which govern business aviation differ greatly among countries and the grey market - owners of private jets offering them for third-party charter despite not having the requisite approvals - persists. I'll be talking about all these problems in my feature package.