23 November 2012

Subic seen hub for general aviation

It was November 24, 1991 when the last American jet fighter took off from Subic, marking the end of their military stay, but now a new breed of jet have taken over the Subic Bay International Airport (Sbia)--business jets.

“This is our blueprint, to see our airport as a bustling hub for general aviation,” says Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) chairman Robert Garcia.

The former US military base cum- industrial-commercial complex turns 20 years old this November 24th.

“I will go very strongly into general aviation, which includes charters, flight training schools and corporate jets, he said, adding that logistical services, aircraft refurbishing and repair are also the ideal businesses for the SBIA.

With more than US$8 billion in foreign investment, Subic Bay remains the country’s top attraction in the foreign investment community.

Leading the pack in this mixed commercial and military thrust is Aviation Concepts, a charter jet firm, whose clients are as diverse as their fleet of commercial fixed wing aircraft.

“Most of our clients are in Asia. They are the corporate executives who need to shuffle from place to place quickly, efficiently, and comfortably,” says Joel Edmonton, Aviation Concepts general manager.

Edmonton witnessed the airport’s ups and downs. A Subic-based a US Navy pilot for 26 years, he led Federal Express’ team as chief pilot until the courier giant decided its business was better off in China.

“Because of national defense considerations, we would have to operate SBIA as a mixed use aerodrome,” Garcia explained, “meaning it might be used as a jumping off point for fighter squadrons, side-by-side with commercial jet charters.”

Just recently, the US Navy leased portions of the airport terminal to support its troops participating in the joint American-Filipino military exercises.

Garcia says Aviation Concepts fits with the SBMA plan, noting that corporate jet charter is a huge business: “Malaking negosyo ang magpa-charter.”

Globally the charter industry is worth about US$15 billion and growing significantly. The industry is forecasting nearly 10,000 new business jet deliveries worth about $250 billion from 2012 to 2022 with some 700 jet to be delivered to buyers this year.

The Asia Pacific region grew double digit during the past five years, according to Honeywell’s Aviation Business, and SBMA, with 200 hectare facility, together with Aviation Concepts, are prepared to catch some of the business.

Operating out of a former Fedex hangar, the firm manages seven jets, employs 51 workers, including six American pilots. The company operates throughout Asia and other parts of the world.

“Our aircraft are based here, we’re in Subic for the long haul,” Edmonton said. (Malaya)