GAMA set to unveil major Sharjah plans
GAMA Aviation expects to announce details of a major investment at its Sharjah base when the Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA) show takes place in Dubai this December. Alan Dron reports.
While more information will be released in Dubai, a virgin site within the Sharjah Airport perimeter will allow the fixed-base operation (FBO), maintenance and managed aircraft specialist to pull together its currently scattered facilities.
These consist of an FBO facility and lounge with three aircraft stands close by, together with three hangar spaces – a small, air-conditioned unit, a larger, open hangar, as well as access to a large air-conditioned hangar.
The new facility will be “a major investment”, said GAMA’s managing director for the Middle East, Martin Ringrose. Timescales for making the new facility operational may be revealed at the show.
“We still don’t have a final cost but we’ve been very much focused on the enabling side of things. We’ve been in negotiations with our landlords, the airport, on the terms of the lease. They’ve been very supportive.”
The new building will come at an opportune time. After two years of an austere business environment, due to the slump in oil prices, Ringrose can see business starting to pick up.
“The economy here as a whole has obviously been affected. Clients and countries here have a financial resilience, but after a couple of years that starts to be tested. I wouldn’t say there’s been much of a slowdown, but there certainly hasn’t been any growth. It has plateaued. We’ve been on that plateau for 18 months and we’re just starting to lift out of it now.
“I think business is improving. Summer was less slow than summers usually are here. August is usually the quietest month of the year, as most owners disappear to other parts of the world, but we did particularly well.”
At the show, GAMA will be promoting its bread and butter activities, such as aircraft management and charter. “But we’ll also be talking about our air ambulance capability, which will be something new,” said Ringrose.
GAMA is looking at using a Lear Jet for this service and, perhaps, other aircraft. “We’re looking to provide it as a charter. We’re in discussions with a couple of medical providers at the moment. GAMA will be offering the aircraft with on-board equipment; the medical expertise will come from elsewhere on a case-by-case basis.
“On the ground side, we’ll be promoting our growing maintenance capability. We’ve added one new type to our portfolio this year, the Embraer 145, and will have added two more types by the time the show comes around.”
Those new types are likely to be the Piaggio Avanti twin turboprop and the Lear Jet 60.
Worldwide, GAMA manages around 150 aircraft and up to 11 are operated out of the Sharjah FBO. There used to be no business aviation activity at Sharjah, but GAMA’s arrival allowed it to pick up a couple of aircraft in the emirate and that number has slowly grown.
The company set up the FBO with initial capability four years ago and has developed that over time. Two years ago, it launched its own, dedicated lounge: “That’s the point at which we got to a level of maturity, handling all our own passengers etc.”
In the past year it has also taken on a large airport-parking lease, and now has exclusive rights to manage business aviation at Sharjah, being the sole supplier of handling.
The biggest aircraft on GAMA’s books is a Boeing BBJ, but it also has 20 Gulfstreams, ranging from the GIV to the G650 series. By far the biggest feet managed worldwide, however, is that turboprop workhorse, the Beechcraft King Air, with 55 under contract.
At Sharjah, GAMA also has crew facilities, line maintenance services and no slot restrictions, which makes it popular with clients.
The Sharjah FBO offers a variety of services, including dedicated customs and immigration, wireless internet, communal iPads for passengers and crew, plus VIP restrooms and shower facilities.