Dubai Aerospace Enterprise chief executive Bob Johnson’s mission is to turn the $15 billion start-up firm into a world player. He tells Mike Martin about a possible aircraft order announcement at Dubai air show and the highs and lows of the first year.

Q You have been in the job for 14 months – what have been the milestones in that time?

We have been building the team and we now have some 500 years of aerospace industry experience here. Just getting it established and sorting out the governance of the place and forming a relationship with the investors was an achievement. We have four of our six business units up and running and nearly five in a fairly short period. Our acquisition of Landmark Aviation in the United States was definitely a milestone.

Q DAE is a major sponsor at Dubai air show: what message do you aim to get across?

We want to talk about our achievements to date and also the next stages of our development. There will be an awful lot of people to meet with and talk to. I can say that since I have been here, in almost every aspect of the business we have found people who are keen to partner with us and we will be talking to a lot more at the show. The show is the perfect platform for us to talk about ourselves and to meet with people. This is our home show and we are he sponsor so we get our chalet in the middle of the chalets.

Q Your leasing business is aiming for a fleet of 120 aircraft and is said to be close to its first order. Will that be announced at the show?

We would hope that we have an announcement to make at the show. We would like to be able to say something. But let’s get the negotiations completed and all the detail sorted out. We are nearly there but we are not quite there. Clearly everyone concerned would like to have it done by the air show. But if it’s not done in time, there won’t be an announcement.

Q With your planned fleet and the large Emirates fleet, together with their huge order book, is there any potential for synergy between the two companies?

Our strategy is independent of Emirates. Their fleet, their order timings and our own are not integrated. We are not buying planes related to the Emirates story. Our strategy is for a fleet of aircraft that is right for our market. It’s not the same mix that Emirates has. It is possible that at some time in the future we might time independent decisions for the sake of value. I also believe they will be a customer and so I am glad they are here.

Q DAE Airports failed in its bid to win the management contract for Auckland International Airport. How much a blow was that to your plans for that business?

I think it was a good deal, a good airport and I believe they would have benefited from the relationship. They wanted us as much as we wanted them. However, it was election time and we decided not to be in the middle of that. Because of that election it was not the right time to have that transaction. In hindsight we should have recognised that it was not the right time to have those discussions. However, there are lots of airports, both brownfield and greenfield, including here in Dubai.

Q Where is the attention of the Airports business currently focused?

In our pipeline of airports, we have ten candidates. We are looking mainly in this region and by that I mean Dubai, the GCC countries, the wider Middle East, India and Asia. I have been to India and I am going very soon to China to look more closely there. There are more airports than we could deal with, so the issue for us is in what order do we address the opportunities?

Q What is your relationship with Dubai World Central?

We work in partnership with the owners and the developers and we bring complementary skills.

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Source: Flight Daily News