Kate Sarsfield/LONDON

ExecuJet Aviation Group, the international aircraft charter and management company, has received what is believed to be the first air operator's certificate (AOC) awarded by the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority to a commercial business aircraft operator in the United Arab Emirates.

The approval comes comes less than six months after ExecuJet Middle East was set up to provide aircraft management and charter to the increasingly buoyant market. Denzil White, managing director of the Dubai-based operation, says: "There is a grey charter market in the Middle East which can be exploited by those operators which want to avoid the costly and stringent requirements of an AOC operation. An aircraft could be made available in exchange for a fee [undetected by the authorities]."

White believes this practice does not always offer a safe and effective means of transport for passengers as privately owned aircraft are not subjected to the same rigorous maintenance and service checks afforded to commercially operated aircraft. He adds: "We are targeting Western companies with business interests in the region as well as high net worth individuals, who have previously not considered owning an aircraft. As a business aircraft operator with an AOC, we can corner the market".

The Bombardier Aircraft sales agent will "sell and promote only" the Canadian manufacturer's business jet line and has orders for a Learjet 45 and a mid-size Learjet 60 which will be delivered later this year. White notes: "Our fleet will consist of managed aircraft - we take care of everything from pilotage to maintenance. When we sell an aircraft to a customer we offer to buy back the excess capacity to sell on as charter."

ExecuJet owns and manages 21 aircraft across its three bases, in Johannesburg, South Africa, Copenhagen, Denmark and Dubai. Denmark provides the operational headquarters for Bombardier's FlexJet Europe fractional ownership programme, in which ExecuJet is a joint venture partner. White quashes suggestions that ExecuJet Middle East is a launch pad for further FlexJet expansion, believing the concept to be ill-suited to the region's culture and infrastructure.

Fractional pioneer Executive Jet established its NetJets Middle East programme with joint venture partner, National Air Services, earlier this year. The Jeddah, Saudia Arabia-based operation has two Gulfstream IVSPs. A third GIVSP, and the first Raytheon Hawker 800XP and Dassualt Falcon 2000 will be added by the end of the year. Executive Jet notes. "We shall be adding betweeen 12 to 15 aircraft a year and plan have more than 60 aircraft in the NetJets Middle East fleet within five years".

Source: Flight International