Mumbai: Gurgaon-based airplane selling and servicing company InterGlobe General Aviation Pvt. Ltd is in talks with several companies, including Reliance Industries Ltd, the Tata group and Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (R-ADAG) to set up a dedicated airport facility for private and business jets.
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InterGlobe, promoted by InterGlobe Enterprises, which has promoted low-fare airline IndiGo, plans to invest in fixed base of operations, popularly known as FBO, for private jets that are much smaller than passenger planes. FBOs are exclusive facilities that offer parking, fuelling, ground handling, maintenance, pilot management and other services for private jets of wealthy individuals or corporate houses. “We are keen to invest in FBOs across the country as part of promoting general aviation. But I cannot disclose the names of companies that we are currently in talks,” said Nigel A. Harwood, CEO of InterGlobe General Aviation.
However, a personal familiar with the situation, who didn’t want to be named, said InterGlobe was in discussions with business groups such as Reliance and the Tatas. Executives of these companies declined to comment for this story.
Some of these companies are keen to develop the Juhu airport as a FBO while other options are evaluated in Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata. Smaller jets need about 5,000ft of runway to take off, compared with about 10,000ft for a regular runway. Private and business jets form part of general aviation while passenger and cargo planes belong to civil aviation.
Harwood, who has spent 15 years in India and is a former CEO of Kingfisher Airlines, notes that India witnessed boom in civil aviation in the last three years. “Now it is turn of general aviation. We have tied up with GE Capital for financing arrangements and UK-based Willix for insurance of business jets,” he said.
The projections of private jet makers suggest that India will buy around 500 planes in next five years. “In conservative estimates, we feel that India will buy at least 200 planes in next three years,” said Harwood.
In April, InterGlobe entered into a long-term sales and service agreement with US’ Hawker Beechcraft Corp. The company is the relevant firm for selling and repairing Hawker products in India and neighbouring countries. Of the approximately 122 business, turbine-powered aircraft in India today, 73 are of Hawker Beechcraft.
InterGlobe also plans to set up a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) unit for private jets in India by 2010. “As our first step, we wil be setting up authorized service centre at the New Delhi airport by early 2008,” said Harwood. “By 2009, this centre would also cater to the service requirements of other types of smaller jets such as Gulfstream and Cessna, which are not from the stable of Hawker. This would cover the Middle-East, besides India.” In the initial two years, the firm plans to invest nearly $10 million for these ventures.
A Mumbai-based industry analyst, who does not want to be named, said an MRO would make sense only when there is sufficient infrastructure to supplement general aviation.
“We are planning to set up a small exclusive terminal for private jets in the airport. I think this will meet the requirements of general aviation including private and business jets,” said Sanjay Reddy, managing director of Mumbai International Airport Ltd, floated by GVK Group.
Private jet makers are upbeat about the economic growth supplemented by the civil aviation policy resulting in the general civil aviation boom. “More real estate developers are keen on buying private jets. With the number of initial public offerings, one could make it out the number of high net-worth individuals in India,” said Jeff Anastas, regional sales director for India and Middle-East with Hawker Beechcraft. He said his company is in talks with five ‘super rich’ Indian customers and that Hawker Beechcraft recently agreed to sell six planes to Indian clients in the last six months.