Trust in Turkey
Despite its terrible challenges, Turkey is striving to build a strong business aviation community. Liz Moscrop reports.
Although Turkey is reeling under the onslaught of a spate of bombings and the fact that its major tourist industry, which accounts for 11% of its gross domestic product, has been slammed by Russian sanctions and European security fears, its leaders and business leaders are determined to continue to develop the country.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cracked down hard on terrorism, jailing 17 suspects over June’s suicide bombing at Ataturk Airport.
Last year Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border, causing Russia to impose sanctions. However, both countries are now saying that they need to fight the common Daesh (also called Islamic State – IS) foe and President Vladimir Putin has agreed to end the Russian ban on tourism.
According to players in the Turkish corporate aviation community, business is stable. Indeed, people are still flying in and out frequently.
Trip support provider, Universal Weather and Aviation, recommends that people arriving should leave three business days’ lead-time. However, short-notice permit requests are possible at the Turkish Civil Aviation Authority’s discretion. Universal does caution foreign operators to arrange aircraft security for the duration of stay. Aircraft guards can be arranged for airside security purposes, but this must be organised and approved prior to the day of operation.
There are plenty of domestic ground and trip support providers, too, such as Istanbul’s Aerowings Aviation, which offers over-flight and landing permits, as well as fielding a team of English and Russian-speaking supervisors. It also offers fuel at competitive prices throughout the country.
The current political climate has meant that charter has suffered. However, as Air Partner Turkey account manager, Caglar Cag, explained: “We will likely get busier now the Russian ban is lifted and operators can fly there directly. The bombings have, sadly, had an impact on operations.”
He added that there were many more operators than there is demand at the moment. “I hope this changes,” he continued. “Generally, in the summer, we are very busy with lots of flights to places like Greece and Italy. For business it’s a year-round steady state with plenty of flights to the US, the Middle East and Russia.”
Captain Gurcan Malli, of Ataturk-headquartered Swan Aviation, is also cautiously optimistic about the future, despite his sadness over the bombings. “We are on the opposite side of the airport but, of course, everyone is affected,” he explained.
Turkey is building a brand new state-of-the-art airport and the present Ataturk is likely to become the base for business aviation, rather like Le Bourget is in Paris.
He continued: “We are seeing big investments in business aviation. There are strong developments in the oil and gas industry and there will be plenty of demand for more helicopters.”
He cited Amac Aerospace’s presence and investment in a new hangar, and suggested that some of the other large international maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) players were looking to expand into Turkey.
“As more helicopters enter the market, Airbus Helicopters, for example, will be looking for a maintenance organisation. Although our tourism market is affected, our country has a strong international reputation and it will take some efforts, but I hope it won’t take long to normalise things.”
He said that Swan Aviation had neither grown nor seen a decline in bookings for the last year. The company’s aircraft sales business has changed, though, since it first came into being nine years ago. He pointed out that clients are now looking for bigger aircraft, such as wide-body midsize Bombardier Challenger 850 types, as they want to fly further afield to develop their businesses.
Today the firm operates 11 aircraft and is set to take its first helicopter in the second half of 2016. It also has a flight-training centre in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Another major operator, Bonair, provides air taxi services, via its fleet of Cessna Citation XLS and Bravo types and an Embraer Legacy 500. It also specialises in medevac flights throughout Turkey and beyond, staffed by doctors and nurses, and flown in both helicopters and fixed-wing types.
Turkeys’ first air ambulance operator was Redstar Aviation, which started operations in 1989. Founded in Izmir, the firm relocated its headquarters to Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport in 2002 and has been, since February 2014 a subsidiary of the Doha, Qatar-based Gulf Helicopters Company.
While its core business is to provide air ambulance services, the past 27 years has seen it develop several services across the business aviation arena, including regular charter flights and film and TV offerings.
MNG Jet Aerospace, meanwhile, is both an operator and MRO provider, offering tech support services for several Bombardier and Hawker types at Ataturk Airport.
It offers line and base maintenance, as well as engine inspection and replacement. It is also an approved repair station for Bombardier, GE, Artex, Honeywell and Rockwell Collins supplemental type certification (STC) development, avionics installation and modifications, and can perform some completions services.
At the beginning of this year it opened its second business jet hangar in Ataturk Airport near to its existing main hangar. The new hangar has a floor area is 4,050sqm (90 metres by 45 metres) and is able to accommodate 11 midsize aircraft. It also has a segregated paint hangar for painting mid-size jets, which completes MNG Jet’s nose-to-tail business jet service.
MRO is set to be big business as the country recovers. Management and fixed-base operations (FBO) services group, Genel Havalik, announced earlier this year that it is to operate the general aviation hangar complex and the general aviation apron at Sabiha Gokcen International Airport for the next 10 years. As a part of the agreement the firm will provide hangarage, cleaning and maintenance services in a five-bay complex with a covered area of 110,000sqft, as well as providing handling services on a dedicated general aviation apron.
The move will expand the company’s presence in the Istanbul area, which serves as the hub for operations and maintenance for business and corporate aviation in a number of countries in the vicinity. Services in the 600,000sqft facility will include ground handling, parking, catering, fuelling, cleaning and maintenance services and a VIP lounge.
AMAC Aerospace, too, is developing in Turkey. The firm’s newest hangar, located at Ataturk Airport, provides a regional maintenance centre delivering scheduled and unscheduled line and base maintenance activities on Airbus, Dassault Falcon and Pilatus PC-12 types. It also has a line station facility at Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Airport and recently signed a contract with the Turkish Airport Authorities to acquire 6,400sqm of premium land based at Milas Bodrum Airport to build a new MRO and hangarage facility for Airbus types. CEO Kadri Muhiddin said: “AMAC Aerospace has gauged the market to make this exciting venture come to reality.”
The launch customer will be Tailwind Airlines, which wants AMAC to perform 7C checks on its B737-400s and B737-800s aircraft.
AMAC is also the exclusive sales representative in the Middle East for the PC-12 NG and PC-24, and has a new hangar at Ataturk Airport dedicated to servicing and selling the type.
Alongside the operational and maintenance developments, Skyline Aviation Training is producing crew for the future. The firm has been a type rating training organisation since 2009 for the Augusta Westland AW-109, and Airbus Helicopters EC-135 and EC-145 types.
The firm has its own fleet of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters and conducts both domestic and international operations in all aspects of commercial aviation. It also has approved service centres in Ankara and Istanbul.
Cag is hopeful that the new opportunities presented by the developing airports in Istanbul could prove to be fruitful for intrepid entrepreneurs. “We should see international FBO and MRO providers moving in,” he said.