Saudi Arabia is the largest aviation market in the Middle East and it enjoys the highest number of wide-body long range aircraft in the region, said Sulaiman Al-Hamdhan, Group CEO of Nas Holdings.
Hamdhan was addressing the inaugural ceremony of the Middle East Business Aviation Conference (MEBAC) in Riyadh.
Introductory remarks were made by Ali Al-Naqbi founding chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Business Aviation Association, which has organized the event in cooperation with a number of organizations including Nasjet and WingsX.
Highlighting the importance of the aviation market in the Kingdom, Al-Hamdhan said there is an estimated 550- general aviation aircraft in the region and the Kingdom has 40 percent of the fleet.
“The aviation sector in the Kingdom witnesses 10 percent annual growth during the recent years,” he added, speaking on the “Size, challenges and opportunities in the Saudi Arabian Business Aviation market”.
He added: “Another indicator of this impressive growth is the rate at which Nasjet has developed since its business in 1999.”
Al-Hamdhan said: “Since , becoming the first private company in the Kingdom to be granted an Air Operator Certificate (AO) by General Authority of Civil Aviation GACA with only a handful of aircraft and a few enthusiastic wealthy clients, Nasjet is now the largest private aviation operator in the Middle East.
There is a fleet of 65 fixed-wing aircraft under its management and flight support, he said.
“Overall capital investments in key aviation infrastructure has grown and created thousands of skilled jobs locally,” he noted,adding that the nasjet alone has invested in excess of $ 350 million with over 280 Saudi-based aviation experts and a fleet of owned aircraft.
As Saudi operator, he said, Nasjet is also proud to be the largest Gulfstream operator in the Middle East with an in-house capability of delivering a full range of services including fractional, aircraft management, charter and inflight support.
Earlier in his opening remarks, Al-Naqbi said the Kingdom is an evolving market set to witness at least 12 percent increase in growth by 2015.
“The aviation industry is playing a great role in the Kingdom,highlighting the significance of promoting business aviation in the region through major organizations and companies, that could utilize business aviation as a vital tool to increase corporate efficiency and flexibility,” said Al-Naqbi.
Speaking to Arab News after the inauguration, Al-Naqbi said the aviation industry is currently facing several challenges. The grey market is one of them. Several countries are facing this issue but the percentage of grey movements in the Middle East is higher in the region, he added.
Post-lecture discussions revealed that the other challenges include, political instability in the region in countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq which cripples the aviation business.
It was also pointed out that since the region has no single unified operating zone, there are operational constraints to fly from country to country.
It was also pointed out that operational expenses are much higher in the Kingdom and across the region generally due to lack of well-equipped maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services.