Having experienced steady, constant growth in its Middle East business throughout at least the past five years, Jet Support Services, Inc. (JSSI) sees plenty of opportunity for further near-term growth in the region as its existing business evolves and because new markets are appearing.
JSSI has had a presence in the Middle East for “well over 20 years” and established a technical support and business development office in Dubai eight years ago to serve its customers in the region, according to Mark Winzar, the company’s senior v-p for business development for the Middle East and Africa. Today, “we certainly see the Middle East as a growth area. It has certainly proved to be so over the past five or six years. We’ve been seeing steady development, and we’re continuing to see it going forward,” he told AIN.
As a result, JSSI—long known as an independent, non-OEM-affiliated provider of power-by-the-hour engine, auxiliary power unit (APU), and airframe maintenance plans and technical support services to business aviation and helicopter operators worldwide—regards its Dubai office as a key asset for further development of its Middle East business presence. “It’s hugely important for JSSI to have a local presence, not only for business development but also for technical support,” said Winzar.
JSSI’s business in the Middle East sees “a lot of activity in bigger [business] jets,” such as the Bombardier Global family, the larger Gulfstream aircraft and Boeing Business Jets, according to Winzar. “We’ve seen growth in the Middle East region based around larger business jets.” While “a lot of the MRO [for these aircraft] needs to go out of the region,” JSSI’s business providing MRO plans and technical support continues to burgeon in the Middle East because “keeping control of [MRO] costs and managing the process is important” to its customers.
Aided by the plethora of international destinations served by commercial flights from Dubai, the JSSI Advisory Services technical support staff based there provide quick-reaction, on-the-spot support to the company’s customers throughout the region. JSSI’s Middle East technical team covers all the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and even India, according to Gregory Olympios, JSSI’s Dubai-based director of business development. Various large cities in India are less than two-and-a-half hours’ flying time from Dubai, and because passenger-traffic flows between India and Dubai are so vast, there are hundreds of commercial flights a week to many Indian cities from the emirate.
But JSSI’s Middle East technical-support presence is strongly bolstered by the fact that it has other technical-support teams based in Europe (at Farnborough), Asia (in Hong Kong and elsewhere) and in the U.S., according to Olympios. Those teams—in total, JSSI has some 75 technical-support staffers worldwide—frequently work with the company’s Middle East team to provide technical support for Middle East customers’ aircraft traveling out of the region and also join forces on the ground to provide technical support in important markets such as Turkey and India.
JSSI considers Turkey part of its Middle East business region for business-development purposes, but the company’s European technical-support team provides most on-the-ground support there that customers require, Olympios explained. While JSSI considers India a highly important market for future business growth and plans eventually to base technical-support personnel there, at present no JSSI support staff are based in India because its business there hasn’t yet reached the level which would require a permanent support commitment. So JSSI’s Dubai-based and Asia-based technical-support teams often join forces to provide technical support to its Indian customers.
Additionally, for the company’s customers in the Middle East, JSSI’s Advisory Services staff provides “local [MRO] support for aircraft away from the region on a mission,” said Olympios. One such example involved JSSI’s Farnborough tech-support staff arranging for a mobile repair team to work on a Middle East customer’s aircraft that became grounded at Shanon Airport in Ireland. The customer’s own personnel “couldn’t have done it on their own,” he said.
JSSI’s Middle East business is growing both through expansion of its existing market expertise and through the company entering new market areas, according to the two executives. “JSSI’s [existing Middle East] business is based predominantly on engines and APUs, but one area of growth is airframe MRO plans and technical support,” said Winzar. While individual airframe maintenance events tend to be less expensive than engine overhauls and repairs, “the drip-feeding of airframe maintenance cost over the lifetime of the aircraft is enormous. People are looking at the cost of airframe maintenance, and we’re seeing a lot more interest in airframe coverage—in the Middle East, particularly.”
Additionally, while most of JSSI’s existing MRO-support business in the Middle East involves larger business jets (“that’s the [aircraft] population—they tend to operate the bigger aircraft,” said Olympios), the company is continuing to see its presence in the VVIP aircraft market in the Middle East grow, according to Winzar.
“Interestingly enough, we’ve seen a huge increase in [MRO] support in the CFM56 market” for BBJs and Airbus Corporate Jets, he said. “That is manifested [both] in [MRO plan] contracts and also in support business,” through, for instance, JSSI Advisory Services providing technical oversight of shop visits and JSSI Parts & Leasing organizing rental engines for short-term placement of customers’ engines undergoing MRO.
“We’re also seeing steady growth in the helicopter market” in the Middle East, said Olympios. “The helicopter market tends to be a bit more volatile, with spikes and troughs; there’s a lot of reliance on utility work such as oil-and-gas support and some [MRO] work gets outsourced to providers in Europe. But we’re certainly seeing growth. There’s potential in Saudi Arabia for growth in the helicopter market.”
Many of JSSI’s Middle East customers are represented by aircraft-management companies, which deal directly with JSSI on behalf of the owners of individual aircraft or very small fleets, according to Winzar. “But there are fleets [of business jets] on the horizon” and that will represent another important business for JSSI in the region, he said.
However, possibly JSSI’s most important potential new business opportunity in the Middle East will arise from providing MRO plans and technical support for regional airline operators throughout the region, according to Winzar. JSSI began offering such support to regional carriers elsewhere about two years ago and now “there definitely are ongoing discussions with certain regionals in the Middle East—particularly in India, where we see an opportunity to expand our regional business,” he said.
The services provided by JSSI Advisory Services, JSSI Parts & Leasing, and the company’s aircraft technical consulting arm Conklin & de Decker could all prove particularly useful to existing Indian regional airlines and start-up commuter carriers as India’s domestic air transport network expands quickly, according to Winzar. Such carriers are likely to grow rapidly as a result of the government’s national Regional Connectivity Scheme promoting the development of new regional airports and air services throughout the vast country, but they may need technical assistance in doing so.
“One of the advantages JSSI has is its ability to cover myriad assets,” said Winzar, noting that JSSI’s business experience in Africa may prove especially useful as it seeks to build MRO support business with the Indian regional airlines. “In Africa we have a lot of PT-6s, Cessna Caravans and King Airs” under JSSI coverage, he said. Winzar reckons JSSI can usefully transfer this experience of providing MRO plan and technical-support coverage for smaller commercial operators’ fleets in developing markets to inform its offering for and activities with Indian commuter and regional operators.