On the Ground, Looking Up

The commercial aviation restart in Iraq is under way. The Mercury Air Group subsidiary, Maytag Aircraft Corporation, has joined forces with Royal Wings Aviation Services in Kuwait at Al Mubarak International Airport. The new venture, Maytag Aviation International, wraps the companies' hands around the Kuwaiti "choking point" for all goods flown into Iraq and Afghanistan and furthers Iraq's commercial rebuilding. Al Mubarak airport is divided between the Kuwaiti military and the commercial airlines at the airport.

The Kuwaiti Air Force leases a great deal of its area to the U.S. Air force and Kuwait International has become the base of the funnel where all goods coming in and out of Afghanistan and Iraq must go through. Unless it is an emergency flight directly into Baghdad or Kabul, all goods and personnel come into Kuwait.

Since 1999, Maytag Aircraft Corporation, the new company's sister, has held the contract for running the military side of the airport for the U.S. Air Force. The new venture noticed that once the commercial aircraft, working under contract for the military had off-loaded, they were pushed onto the commercial side of the airfield and had to "fend for themselves." Delta, Polar, World Airways, Volga-Dnepr Airlines and others that are currently bringing supplies into Kuwait should stand to benefit from this venture.

"Kuwait International Airport had this inordinate amount of cargo aircraft sitting on its tarmac. Actually, it doesn't even have room for them," says Joseph A. Czyzyk, chairman and CEO of Mercury Air Group. "These are flights that have come in, done there duty for the U.S. Air Force and then they get pushed out onto the commercial side of the airport to make room for the other flights coming in for the military."

After the crews punch out for Uncle Sam, they either have to find a load or wait for a message from their dispatch center. The aircraft needs fuel, ground support, catering and, if they're able to pick up some commercial air cargo, they need to be loaded. These services were offered by several different venders at the airport, but this new venture will offer a "one-stop shop."

"In the past, all of these services were available, but you had to go to seven or eight different sources to get them whereas we're providing all of these under one roof and under one agreement," Czyzyk says.

Even though Maytag Aviation International is a Kuwaiti-registered company, they will be offering credit to U.S.-based companies to give them a more economically viable option.

Royal Wings, a leading flight support services provider in the area with offices in Kuwait, Dubai and Qatar as well as affiliates in parts of the Middle East and East Africa, specializes in servicing corporate, charter and commercial flight operations. They support VIP flights by arranging all the required ground handling, crew support, fuel, transportation, hotel arrangements, civil permits, parking and any needed special security.

Royal acts as a general sales agent for various airlines by arranging passenger and cargo air charters. They connect their contacts in the Middle East, East Africa and China with Mercury Air Group to provide a range of aviation solutions.

"We are able to open a number of new markets for the many products and services of the Mercury Air Group family," says Robert A. Gualtieri, Maytag Aviation International's business development manager in Kuwait. "We [chose] the Maytag name since our primary focus will be to capture U.S. government business and Maytag Aircraft Corporation has [more than] 50 years experience in U.S. government support.

"Royal Wings' partner, Maytag Aircraft, has contracted with the U.S. government to provide refueling, air terminal, ground handling and base operating support at multiple international and domestic locations.

No Locals

On the military side of the airport, none of the employees are Kuwaiti. Since the "Cole Incident" October 12, 2000, Al Mubarak at Kuwait was categorized by the department of defense as a security risk. Third party nationals were originally allowed to work, but after September 11 the base became 100-percent expatriates.

The USS Cole destroyer was attacked and 17 crew members were killed while 39 others were injured during a scheduled refueling.

The new venture on the commercial side of Al Mubarak International Airport now has four permanent employees as well as a number of part-timers on the payroll.

"As the word is getting out, we're slowly building," Czyzyk says. He sites the two major reasons for companies to come on board. "We have parking available, which is a big thing at that airport. Once the airplane is pushed out of the military side, they may not have a place for it to go for two or three days. They may need to fly in a crew or the existing crew may have to spend 24 hours on the ground. We [also] actually provide the fuel. Customers don't have to deal with KAFCO, the current monopoly company."

The Kuwait Aviation Fuelling Company (KAFCO) was the sole supplier of jet fuel at Kuwait International Airport. The new company will use MercFuels' (also part of the Mercury Group family) supplies to offer the new fueling service.

Toys in the Chest

"At this point it's a pushback tractor," Czyzyk says of the company's small arsenal of ground support equipment. "We have a number of large heavy terrain forklifts; we have a GPU, air start, a variety of towbars." If they ever find themselves a little short on equipment, Maytag Aircraft has a plethora of equipment over on the military side of the field.

Royal Wings also partners with Kuwait Airways for ground support equipment needs. The airline provides all ground handling services including cargo loading, catering, refueling and aircraft pushback.

"What we're hurting for is business. We believe that we'll have significantly more business by this time next year, but it's new and we're just introducing it into a specialized market. Our target market is those companies contracting with the U.S. government."

Starting from the ground and looking up, Maytag Aviation International plans on expanding its operations as a primarily commercial faction in Dubai as well as in Qatar and Doha alongside the U.S. military as it continues to grow its presence in the regions.

"We hope to piggyback with our subsidiary, Maytag Aircraft, which is starting a new contract in January in support of the U.S. Air Force in Al Wadid (a partnership between USAF and a Qatari air force base)," Czyzyk says. "We expect to be providing that same service in Doha in another year. With the (commercial) growth of Dubai, the company would be purely commercial ground support."

Maytag Aviation International is a solutions-oriented company with expertise in both defense contract requirements and commercial aviation. "Maytag's experience as a defense contractor in Kuwait, coupled with the significant business contacts Royal Wings has in the region, enable us to provide any company that wishes to do business in Kuwait, either government or purely commercial, a vast aRay of tools necessary to be successful. We can navigate the required Kuwait government procedures and help a company avoid the pitfalls of operating in Kuwait, prevent false starts and wasted effort. We do this with straight forward administration in a transparent partnership with our clients," Gualtieri attests.

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