Planemakers look to Middle East


Dec. 08--Although the Middle East has felt the impact of a global recession, it's expected to be among the first of the international markets to lead a gradual recovery in the sale of business jets, Cessna Aircraft's head of global sales says.

"Its economies remain fundamentally strong and vigorous," Trevor Esling, Cessna's vice president for international sales, said in a statement.

The widespread recognition and acceptance of business aircraft and the emergence of wealth creation through entrepreneurship is contributing to general aviation's growth in the region, Hawker Beechcraft officials say.

Hawker Beechcraft, Cessna and Bombardier are showcasing Wichita-built aircraft at this week's Middle East Business Aviation Association show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The three companies are among the 338 exhibitors showcasing products at the show, which is expected to attract about 7,000 trade visitors. That's up from 2008, when the biennial show attracted 5,500 visitors and 250 exhibitors.

The Middle East business aviation market is expected to expand 15 to 20 percent each year over the next four years to become a $1 billion a year industry, Hawker Beechcraft said.

MEBA predicts that the Middle East and North Africa markets will account for 20 to 25 percent of all new business jet deliveries worldwide from 2012 through 2018, Hawker Beechcraft said.

Business aircraft sales in the Middle East peaked in 2007 but tumbled with the rest of the world in late 2008, said Brian Foley, a market analyst with Brian Foley Associates.

Still, the market swing was less extreme than in the U.S., Foley said.

The region has multiple ties with all the other world economies, he said.

Oil plays a role, but its influence is less direct as the Middle East's interests diversify.

The Middle East has a need to work with partners in Europe, Asia and the Americas, Foley said. And that requires a well-developed business aviation fleet and infrastructure.

About 550 business jets are based in Middle Eastern countries, he said. Nearly 90 percent of them are in the medium- or large-jet categories.

Cessna's Esling said the company already has detected rising confidence and activity among potential buyers in the Middle East.

"In particular, we're seeing a growing awareness that midsize aircraft, such as our larger Citations, offer the key capabilities sought by many Middle East companies," Esling said.

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