A pledge to stamp out one of the biggest scourges of the Middle East's charter operators - the illegal grey market - within three years has been made on the eve of MEBA.

At a conference kicking off the show yesterday, the heads of two local operators - Mark Pierotti of Al Jaber Aviation and Dave Edwards of Gama Aviation - agreed to work with Middle East Business Aviation Association founder Ali Al Naqbi in an action group aimed at finally eradicating a problem the industry has grumbled about for years.

Speaking at the Middle East Business Aviation Conference at The Address hotel, Dubai Marina, Pierotti said the grey, or black market - where owners of privately-registered jets illegally operate them on revenue service - accounted for his company recording smaller revenue growth this year than he had expected.

He argued that private jets operated under so-called Part 91 regulations were much more relaxed than those for charter services. "They are operated to different standards. There are different fatigue levels for pilots," he said.

"Anyone who assists or facilitates these sorts of flights - brokers or management companies - is not just committing a moral crime but [also] breaking the law," he added.

Edwards said that while educating pilots, regulators, owners and end-users about the problem was important, the biggest difference would be made by the authorities in the Gulf adopting random ramp checks of arriving private aircraft, known in Europe as SAFA (safety assessment of foreign aircraft) inspections.

Aoife O'Sullivan, an aviation lawyer with Gates and Partners, said the region had a "blank canvas" when it came to tackling the problem of the grey market. However, she said, civil aviation authorities needed to be "educated on the approach to take".

James Dowlen of Chartis Insurance warned that owners of aircraft conducting grey market flights were risking invalidating their insurance if there was an accident.

Source: Flight Daily News