Business aviation is thriving in the Middle East, and the fleet of around 320 aircraft is set to more than double by 2012. This isn´t just a forecast; it is based on aircraft orders already announced, with deliveries slated between now and that year, says Ali Ahmed Al Naqbi, chairman of the Middle East Business Aviation Association. The MEBAA area of influence covers all Arab League countries and stretches as far west as Algeria and Libya and north into Syria.
MEBAA membership has risen from around 30 members at the start of the year to 55 now, and includes some Western-based OEMs and other interested parties. The first two-day Middle East Business Aviation show was such a success earlier in the year (held here, with 30 aircraft on the ramp) that show organizers say indoor exhibition space is on course to double in size in 2008. This will be MEBAA´s first full three-day event and will run from Nov. 16-18; it will alternate biennially with the Dubai Air Show. Not bad for a meeting that started as a mere one-day seminar/networking opportunity alongside the 2005 Dubai Air Show. Middle Eastern business aviation is booming not only with orders for Boeing and Airbus VVIP governmental-size aircraft, but all the way down to smaller business aircraft and VIP helicopters. Cessna sales are doing particularly well, and Piaggio picked up an order for six Avanti IIs earlier in the year. Al Naqbi says that the stable growth in the region is driving greater interest in business aviation. Most aircraft are, according to Al Naqbi, bought either by private individuals or corporations, and then managed under a local charter operator´s AOC. This route is favored by many, as the aircraft owner gets priority use of the aircraft. He said that business is particularly strong in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and Oman, and aircraft are being used by a new generation of entrepreneurs.
Business aviation infrastructure is also fast expanding, with both Jet Aviation and ExecuJet offering FBO and MRO services at Dubai International, and they have been joined recently by Dubai Executive Flight Service, offering another ultra-luxury FBO to handle the swelling numbers of business jets.
The world´s largest new airport, Dubai World Central International, is being built some 35 kms. away from Dubai city center at Jebel Ali and will have its own Executive Jet Center.
Infrastructure spending throughout the Gulf region continues apace, backed by local and Western partnerships.