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Singapore and Supang in Kuala Lumpur.
Both China and the Southeast Asian are interesting
to FBO operators and owners but there are two
different markets there. Each offers opportunities but
the scale and maybe the intensity of the Chinese
market gives its potential a bit more allure at least
at this point.
In Singapore Seletar is the business aviation
airport. It has greater privacy, convienence,
customs, immigration and quarantine facilities to
cater to international flights than Changi. Current
infrastructure can accommodate small and mid-
sized aircraft and give it a reach of 6,000km. This
covers most of Asia and Australia and investment in
the FBO sector is moving ahead - ST Aerospace
is planning a VIP lounge and charter handling
facilities, Jet Aviation already has an FBO operation
and Hawker Pacific opened a new FBO there during
the Singapore Air Show.
It is a similar situation, albeit on a smaller scale,
at Kuala Lumpur's SkyPark Subang where being an
FBO is part of a broader facility although according
its website the FBO "offers all the services one would
expect from a world-class FBO provider." These
include VIP lounges, meeting rooms, food & beverage
services, comprehensive aircraft and ground services,
on-site customs and immigration facilities, business
services, Wi-Fi internet connectivity, dedicated crew
amenities and concierge services.
Hawker Pacific established a joint venture in Kuala
Lumpur earlier this year, which sits nicely with its
wholly-owned FBO and Service Centre in Singapore.
But it's not a story of universal growth. Recent
refurbishment of Phuket airport did not include a
private or business aviation facility. Celebrities alone
could support one let alone the super rich who
It is in North Asia, especially the Middle Kingdom,
where the pace and the action is quickening.
"China is a remarkable market which continues to
grow at a truly staggering pace," said Tony Jones,
Chief Operating Officer --Asia for Hawker Pacific.
"Since our FBO opened in Shanghai in 2010,
Hawker Pacific has experienced significant year-on-
A revealing and picturesque of how to understand
what is potentially on offer comes from Bjorn Naf of
Metrojet. Referring to various OEM studies he said
"it's expected that there will be one aircraft delivery in
China every three days in the next 10 years."
It is potentially a huge market although like all such
opportunities the risks are pro rata. What tops the list
here is infrastructure both hardware and software.
On the hardware side the statistics are not
encouraging. China has 190 public use airports,
110 military only airports. Whilst that is small
compared to the population, its just as bad when
compared to land mass 1.6 airports per 100,000
square kilometers. Another statistic: Thailand has
less than thirty civilian airports. Low for its population,
economic size and appeal.
Woven into this is the software problem of permission
and how those facilities get used. Not just in China
but throughout the region.
"An important aspect for the business aviation
aircraft user is the ability to go where they want, when
they want. Although times for issuing permits have
shortened significantly over the last few years there
are still limitations of the number of airports we may
use and how quickly we are able to respond to short
notice flight requests," said Neil Gibson, managing
director of Gama Aviation (Asia).
There are other concerns too. Talent is also a
particular one as many of the FBO are already
locking horns with the commercial airlines and more
broadly other companies not just for capable people
but especially those who are already trained and
It takes ten years to train up a Captain, Naf
noted, and two years plus for an engineer. Currently
almost 100% of Captains and between 20-40% of
engineers come from outside the Asia region. Cost
becomes another problem as importing foreign staff
is expensive, especially if they are key personnel.
Nor is it the only time of import limiting the industry.
"High VAT and import tax for Mainland owned and
registered aircraft plus a long lead time to process
CAAC import approval," Gama's Gibson listed as
That said the situation is not one of doom and
gloom, far from it although it is probably best to take a
long term position. There is seemingly no such thing
as a silver bullet to resolve the sector's issues as
Gama's Gibson acknowledges.
"Educating business leaders and HNWI (High
Net Worth Individuals) in the benefits of business
aviation and the need to engage an experienced
operator to manage their aircraft is a key factor
to growing the market," he said. But that market
in future will seemingly be not so much Asian
as Chinese -- itself a telling hint as to its future
direction. He added there is also a need "for the
CAAC to consider the importance of business
aviation in China and work with the business
"China is a remarkable market which continues to grow at a truly staggering
pace," Tony Jones, chief operating officer --Asia, Hawker Pacific
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