The Middle East looks set to get its first completion centre next year, following a new deal signed between Abu Dhabi-based business aviation services provider Falcon Aviation Services and Dubai Aviation City.
Under terms of the agreement Falcon will build a new hangar – big enough to take at least a Boeing 747-8I aircraft – and develop a VVIP completions centre at Dubai World Central.
The deal is a major breakthrough for the Middle East. Although the region is home to a large and expanding population of business aircraft and wealthy owners, it has been dismissed by industry specialists as a viable base for a completion centre due to its relatively unskilled workforce. However, this view is not shared by Falcon chief operating officer Capt Mahmoud Ismael.
"There is a perception that there is little talent in the Middle East to support a highly skilled aircraft completions business," he says. "This isn’t an obstacle for us. We will simply import the specialist talent.
"The customers are not being experimented on as we are importing the talent, and there are pretty well-known names among them. We have got the right people to get it established," he adds.
The completions industry is dominated by a handful of major players in Europe and the USA including Jet Aviation, Lufthansa Technik, Gore Design and Greenpoint Technologies. "Currently, Middle Eastern owners have to travel a long way to get their aircraft refurbished or completed," Ismael says.
FAS already provides maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) services and has approvals from a number of airframers, including Embraer and Airbus Helicopters. "This is a natural expansion for our thriving MRO business," says Ismael. "This is a tremendous opportunity for us and we are determined to succeed," he adds.
FAS will "cut its teeth" on refurbishment and heavy maintenance and then gradually move towards completions of green aircraft.
Ismael says there are around three widebodies and eight narrowbodies across the region coming up for heavy checks and refurbishment.
Work is expected to begin on the new hangar in the third quarter of this year and it should be fully operational by 2015.