Better regulations on business jets by next year

AsBAA is working with CAAM to refine the aviation regulations pertaining to BizAv to be more accommodative for the operations

by RAHIMI YUNUS/ pic by TMR FILE

MALAYSIA is working on initiatives that will improve regulations on business aviation (BizAv) to create more conducive operations as early as next year, pending the authority’s approval.

Asian Business Aviation Association (AsBAA) Malaysia Chapter head Aida Ismail said the organisation is working with the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) to refine the aviation regulations pertaining to BizAv to be more accommodative for the operations of the industry players.

“We are working very closely with CAAM on Annex 6.2 and 6.3 to make our operation easier. Current regulations treat BizAv like commercial aviation, but the nature of our business is very different.

“CAAM understands us better now after multiple engagements and is happy to work with us on the regulations,” Aida told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

She said Annex 6.2 provides guidelines and references on flight operations and safety for fixed-wing aircraft, while Annex 6.3 is for helicopter operations.

Aida, who is also the regional sales director of Hadid International Services in Asia, said the improvised regulations could potentially be implemented next year upon approval by CAAM and stakeholders.

Charter flights are different from commercial flights because they are not part of a scheduled service.

Travellers can fly at their convenience by business aircraft with privacy and avoid crowded airports as they depart from a private facility known as a fixed-based operator or FBO. Aida said certain matters could be bypassed because they are deemed unnecessary for private jet operation.

As it is, she said AsBAA is in talks with CAAM to shorten aircraft registration to encourage more jet owners to register their assets in the country.

She said aircraft registration in Malaysia, which carries the prefix 9M, takes about two years and that is too long compared to other parts of the world that may take only months.

“We spoke to CAAM and they agreed to look into it to shorten the timeline for 9M registration. If they can make it one or two months, that will be excellent,” she said.

Around 70% of private jets in the world are registered in the US, which in many cases can be done in less than a year, according to AsBAA.

Other common places for an Air Operator Certificate application include Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Isle of Man, Aruba and San Marino.

For flight permits, Aida said the approval process in Malaysia can be obtained in one or two hours, an improvement from a day timeline previously.

Besides regulations, Aida said Malaysia can improve on other aspects such as safety measures, human capital, certification, customer services and infrastructure to make the country as the regional hub of BizAv and general aviation.

“Malaysia is doing way much better now. The number of Malaysian registered jet owners is quite significant compared to Singapore. People still assume we are far behind but actually, we are making a lot of progress.

“But we need to do a lot more, so that we could go near Hong Kong in terms of operations and flight movements,” she said.

Malaysia aspires to be a regional BizAv hub via Subang Airport, competing against other terminals in neighbouring countries including Seletar Airport in Singapore, Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand.

Apart from being a BizAv hub, Subang Airport — also known as the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport or Subang SkyPark — is currently the country’s turboprop aircraft hub.

If the number of Malaysian registered aircraft is bigger, Aida said the country could spur business activities in ground handling, sell more jet fuel, expand infrastructures catering to the jets and potentially be the reference hub in developing the industry’s capacity and capabilities.

Malaysia currently has a business jet fleet size of 62 units, according to consulting firm Asian Sky Group’s (ASG) quarterly report in the second quarter of 2020.

She also said one aspect that could be improved is the banks’ willingness to support the industry, where at present many are sceptical to provide financing as they have limited information and no track records on the industry.

Aida said the Malaysian Investment Development Authority has made efforts to educate local and international financial institutions on BizAv activities in Malaysia.

TMR previously reported that more people were choosing to fly on private jets as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic rather than using commercial flights.

Despite the positive sentiment, BizAv flights (departures and arrivals) in Malaysia declined 94% year-on-year from 2,156 to 131 flights from April to July, based on the automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast technology and air traffic control, as provided by ASG to TMR.

ASG MD Jeffrey Lowe said actual flights might be higher than that.