Saturday, 17 July 2010

Investor to revive Subic int’l airport

Rey Garcia
BusinessWorld
http://www.bworld.com.ph/main/content.php?id=14305

SUBIC FREE PORT -- Aviation Concepts Holdings, an American-Canadian joint venture, is set to take over airport hangars abandoned by courier giant Federal Express.

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) said efforts to carve a niche in the aircraft chartering business finally hit pay dirt, as the aviation company based in Guam had decided to establish a world-class, full-service aviation center inside the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA).

SBMA administrator Armand C. Arreza referred to the Aviation Concepts project as the “resurrection” of the SBIA, which has been dormant since February 2009 when Federal Express transferred its Asia-Pacific hub to China.

He said that just as FedEx in 1995 ushered in the first wave of foreign business locators to this free port, the Aviation Concepts project could open new opportunities by attracting intercontinental jets to the airport.

“Aviation Concepts has transformed an abandoned and dilapidated military hangar into Guam’s aviation center. SBIA will surely reap huge benefits from the expertise of this international firm,” Mr. Arreza said.

Aviation Concepts senior vice-president Anthony Decoste said the company would initially invest $1.1 million to rehabilitate airport facilities and start operations by mid-September.

“Lucky for us the SBIA was vacated by FedEx. Everything seems prepared for us -- world-class aviation facilities, minimal air traffic, availability of trained work force. Everything we need is right here in Subic,” he said.

Mr. Decoste said the jets his company would service would bring aircraft owners and VIPs here to see “what a wonderful area Subic Bay is, physically and business-wise.”

“Our concept here is to basically copy what is in Guam, bring it here and expand it,” said Mr. Decoste, who also serves as Aviation Concepts’ country director in the Philippines.

Aviation Concepts, he said, began looking at the Philippines when Guam operations “grew exponentially” and faced space constraints.

Mr. Decoste also praised Subic’s accessibility via the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, and the ease of making transactions with the SBMA.

Mr. Decoste said his company would hire 50 employees for its Subic operations. Workers will be trained at the “highest level attainable.”

The firm is committed to offer a “full range of aviation services and facilities to clients,” he said. These include ground handling, maintenance repair and overhaul, a Fixed Base Operation facility with VIP crew lounge and amenities, an air ambulance, aircraft scheduling and recordkeeping, aircraft detailing, hangarage, and technical stop services.

Mr. Decoste and Aviation Concepts aviation security head Edward Pooley signed the contract for the project last week with Stefani C. Saño, SBMA senior deputy administrator for business, and retired general Marcelo S. Santos, head of the SBMA airport.

In 2007, in partnership with Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc., Aviation Concepts opened the first aircraft scheduling center for business aircraft in Makati. The success of the venture led the firm to tap Subic Bay to expand operations. -- Rey Garcia

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