Graeme Duckworth explains how business aviation been evolving in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions, and what ExecuJet MRO Services has planned
What facilities do you have in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions?
ExecuJet MRO Services has facilities at Dubai International Airport, UAE, and at Subang Airport, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, both wholly owned by Dassault Aviation. We also have a franchise relationship with ExecuJet Haite Aviation Services China, based in Tianjin, China.
The Middle East business has been operating for more than 20 years and offers line and base maintenance from two large MRO hangars at Dubai International Airport with a combined office and hangar floor area measuring over 10,000m² (107,639ft²). There is also a line station at Al Maktoum International Airport, Dubai. Both locations are supported by 150-plus personnel.
As a Dassault factory-owned facility, we support the Falcon 7X/8X, Falcon 2000 series and Falcon 900 series, along with being an Embraer ASC supporting Lineage, Legacy 600/650, Praetor 500/600 and Phenom 300/100 models. Additionally, the business has in-depth experience maintaining Bombardier Global Express series, Challenger and Learjet series aircraft, along with support for the Hawker 4000, 125 series and 400XP aircraft types.
In Malaysia the business has been operating for more than 10 years. It offers line and base maintenance from two hangars at Subang International Airport, with a combined facility size of approximately 9,900m² (106,563ft²), supported by more than 60 personnel.
The business supports the Falcon 7X/8X, Falcon 2000 series and Falcon 900 series. Being multi-OEM capable, the facility has in-depth experience supporting Bombardier Global Express series, Challenger series and Learjet series alongside the Gulfstream G200, GIV, G450, GV and G550 aircraft types.
What interior services are available there?
In the Middle East we offer full interior refurbishment capabilities through F/List, a renowned specialised provider based out of Austria. They also have a line facility located conveniently in Dubai.
In Malaysia, we offer a variety of interior services including soft goods material replacement, carpet customisation and wood veneer repair/replacement to fulfil the requirements of our clients covering all aircraft types that we maintain, including Dassault Falcon, Gulfstream and Bombardier types.
Can you share some of your biggest business jet projects in those regions?
The Middle East operation performs large C inspections and is approved for the heaviest level of maintenance on all the above-mentioned aircraft types, including large interior refurbishment projects and satcom installations.
Likewise in Malaysia we have completed many large C inspections on a variety of aircraft types and have carried out many carpet replacements and cabinet veneer repair work, which usually coincides with major maintenance work carried out at our Subang Airport facility. The largest project involved a full interior refurbishment, including carpet replacement, veneer rework and leather soft goods replacement. In summary, the ambiance, colour and feel of the entire cabin is changed to suit the client’s personal tastes.
How has business aviation been evolving in the Middle East and Asia over the past five years or so? Can you give an overview of interior service capacity and scope in the wider industry?
The Middle East business has witnessed steady growth over the past years, all in line with regional installed base growth coupled with an ever-growing fleet of visiting aircraft drawn to Dubai’s attractions. As an example, we recorded 575 drop-in aircraft over the first quarter of 2021, a record to date.
The business jet fleet in Asia has been growing at approximately 2.4% year-on-year and likewise the demand for aircraft interior maintenance/refurbishment is expected to grow. Aircraft owners are increasingly placing more emphasis on comfort and aesthetics in the cabin, with innovative designs and material choices more common than in the past. Aircraft interior design often reflects the personality of the organisation or the owner. The increasing aircraft ownership within Asia creates opportunities for aircraft interior services to further grow and expand.
Are there any challenges unique to service providers in these regions?
The Middle East is a harsh environment, especially over the summer months all necessitating fully air-conditioned facilities to provide not only personnel, but also aircraft with a controlled temperature environment to perform aircraft maintenance activities safely. The impact of the environment on aircraft interiors, particularly for aircraft parked outside in the baking Middle East sun, requires additional care to ensure longevity.
In Asia there are no challenges, other than to change the perception of clients and operators that with the passage of time there are options available in Asia for interior work that has predominantly been done in North America or Europe previously.
Is there anything you would like to see companies in these regions cooperate to achieve?
The MRO business worldwide remains very competitive, not only within the particular region, but also from facilities in Europe and beyond. This makes any cooperation hard to achieve.
Has demand in these regions been impacted by the pandemic?
The pandemic has been very challenging, however in the UAE the government has been handling the situation extremely well, which has made the region an attractive and safe option for many corporate customers and high-net-worth individuals either visiting for work or pleasure. The upside to all of this is seeing the increased numbers of visiting aircraft over the fourth quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021 in comparison with previous years.
In Asia we have seen an increased demand for aircraft maintenance due to the reluctance of operators to travel to Europe and the USA. However this hasn’t translated into a significant increase in interior refurbishment, which has remained flat, most likely driven by a reluctance for discretionary spend during the crises that the world is enduring.
Do you have any plans for expansion that you can share?
In the Middle East we are currently constructing a new state-of-the-art facility at Al Maktoum International Airport. The new MRO facility will increase the capacity of offices, workshops and hangar floor area to well over 15,000m² (161,459ft²). Occupation is expected to be realised during the second quarter of 2022.
In Malaysia we have expanded capabilities, certifications and facilities over the past five years. The next expansion plan is the development of a new business aviation hangar complex – measuring between 10,000m² (107,639ft²) and 14,000m² (150,695ft²) – at Subang Airport, Malaysia, by the fourth quarter of 2023. This will be to cater for the expected growth in Asia.
Graeme Duckworth is president of ExecuJet MRO Services. A full report on cabin capabilities in Asia features in the July 2021 edition of Business Jet Interiors International.