As a private or commercial pilot, you know the ultimate in freedom and luxury comes from having your own aircraft - and our Middle East neighbors in the Gulf agree. Private aviation in this part of the world is an astounding $500 million business, and the Chairman of Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA) Ali al-Naqbi predicts that figure will double in the next five years. In a recent interview that took place in Saudi Arabia, Naqbi went on record saying that there were already 34 private jet firms in the area, and that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was the biggest market in the Middle East along with North Africa, but with Saudi Arabia leading the pack. |
This is no surprise in the Emirates, where a favorite hobby is collecting $100,000 falcons for hunting and show, or where teenagers are often seen zipping around in Lamborghinis. If it’s luxury you want, and done right, simply look to the UAE for a little inspiration. There are some things which can only be done abroad, like the famous weekend camel races, but others—like purchasing your own private aircraft from a reputable aviation company—can be done in North America. You don’t have to go to Saudi to live like a sheikh.
The UAE’s High Hopes
While Naqbi admits that doubling hundreds of millions in revenue is feasible, he says that predictions could easily triple—assuming private and business aviation became “properly regulated.” Currently, there are 150 private jets registered in the leading Emirate, as well as 700 private jets that belong to locals who are registered overseas. With little regulation and legislation in place, it’s tough to nail down exactly what the figures are. Naqbi says the most pressing issue is a total lack of international agreements for the luxury sector, no laws for UAE aircraft maintenance companies and the spread of private airports, which are a “black market with illegal flights by some foreign private jet firms.”
Just 50 years ago, the UAE was populated with tribes living in deserts with nary a mall in sight (let alone private jets). However, the oil discovery has created an incredibly wealthy region virtually overnight. This is great news for those who want to indulge, get their private pilot license and enjoy the literal high life. However, it’s also left plenty of room for cutting corners which may be dangerous in the long run. Unaccounted flights and aircraft can only lead to trouble.
Too Much Focus on Commercial
Naqbi also points out that many local officials are more concerned with commercial airline regulations, which has pushed private aviation onto the back burner. That’s where the bigger revenues are, even with the surge of private aircraft purchases. However, he warns that if this continues the odds of accidents and illegal private aviation will rise.
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