EBACE: Gama Aviation targets Asian and South American operations as it aims for 'truly global footprint'

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One of Europe's largest business aviation providers, Gama Aviation, believes it is well on the way to creating "a truly global footprint" as it looks to add bases in Asia and South America to its UK, US and Middle East operations.

Marwan Khalek, chief executive and co-founder of the Farnborough-based aircraft management, maintenance and charter specialist, expects to have a "physical presence shortly" in both these regions. "Work continues and we are not far off making serious in-roads," he said. "The downturn has meant that we are about 12-18 months behind the schedule that we set three years ago."

Gama - which operates a fleet of almost 80 aircraft, about 90% of which are managed for clients - is also ramping up its facilities in the Middle East. Last year it launched activities there with a sales office in Dubai and a United Arab Emirates air operator's certificate. Next year it will open a hangar at Sharjah airport and expand into Saudi Arabia. Its first Airbus Corporate Jet will join the UAE fleet in a few months.

Khalek, who set up Gama with business partner Stephen Wright in 1983, said the company would prefer to "fast track our development" into the new markets with an acquisition or partnership. "But we have a back-up plan in parallel if we don't find the right bride," he added. "Bureaucratic barriers rather than investment funds is the main challenge for us."

Khalek - for whom EBACE remains a "significant event" - believes the industry is fully in recovery mode. "There are no Earth-shattering statistics, but we are heading in the right direction and we are seeing this reflected across our three regions," he said.