New ventures in Saudi Arabia and UAE intended to address shortfall in business aircraft maintenance facilities

A new Saudi Arabian venture offering maintenance and support services was the most significant of a series of moves aimed at addressing the region's underdeveloped business aviation aftersales infrastructure.

The centrepiece of MAZ Aviation's $300 million initiative will be a 10,000m2 (108,000ft2) maintenance hangar at King Khalid international airport in Riyadh. Other businesses operating under the Ajwaa Alalam Group banner will handle fleet management and spare parts and logistics.

Maintenance support has failed to keep pace with the dramatic growth of the business jet fleet in recent years, with ExecuJet and Jet Aviation in Dubai among a handful of third-party providers.

"Globally the Middle East is one of the most important markets for business and private aviation, yet it is one of the most underserved in terms of services and support," says Mohammed Al-Zeer, chairman of MAZ Aviation and Ajwaa Alalam. "Owners have been having to fly to Europe to receive service for too long. We will provide the aviation community in the Middle East with the same level of service people expect in the USA or Europe."

The Riyadh facility will be able to handle aircraft up to Airbus A340s and Boeing 777s. It will become operational in 2011, coinciding with the scheduled arrival of MAZ Aviation's six A350 XWBs in VIP configuration.

Also at MEBA, Dubai's Palm Aviation unveiled plans for an $11 million, 8,000m2 fixed base operation at Dubai World Central Aviation City, next to the new Jebel Ali airport which will open at the end of next year. The FBO is part of the support specialist's plan to grow revenues by 35% a year over the next five years.

Chief executive Samer Dabbagh believes the Middle East business aviation sector will expand by more than 30% a year over that period with the region's maintenance, repair and overhaul sector expanding by 9%.

Swiss-based ExecuJet will also open a FBO and maintenance facility at Aviation City to complement its operation at the Dubai International airport Free Zone, which is working at full capacity.

Mike Berry, head of ExecuJet in the Middle East, says: "We have secured the plots which will allow us to build a much bigger facility. From a customer perspective, if he or she wishes to land at Dubai International and house the aircraft there, we can still do that. A customer won't need to land at one airport and then ferry for maintenance. We can offer a full suite of services at both facilities."

One of the region's fastest-growing new players, Prestige Jet of Abu Dhabi, is opening five FBOs in the Middle East and Europe. The Middle East operations will be in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Doha and Jordan. Prestige has also bought Spanish operator Flylink Express Aviation Management, rebranding it Prestige Jet Spain, to become the first Middle Eastern operator with a European air operator's certificate.

"Being an Arabian operator meant we had to gain all the permits and permissions for flights into Europe," says chief executive Faris Deeb. "But now we can leave at an hour-and-a-half's notice from the Middle East."

In other MRO moves, Saudi Arabia's Wallan Aviation has been named an authorised Cessna service centre for the Middle East, and Lufthansa Technik is to provide its Total Component Support services to Saudi operator National Air Services. Dana Executive Jets, owned by the government of Ras al Khaimah, is to open a line maintenance centre in the emirate with Turkish MRO specialist MNG to support its Hawker and Bombardier Challenger aircraft.

Source: Flight International