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in Business Aviation / Features

Smart move for VIP operator

Posted 17 April 2018 · Add Comment

With more than 30 years’ aviation experience, Captain Mohamed Roshdy Zakaria knows the airline business from top to bottom.

When he became EgyptAir CEO in 2012, he had already been a chief pilot examiner and instructor on the Airbus 300-B4, the Boeing B767 and B777, and he had been instrumental in creating and building the airline’s integrated operation control centre (IOCC).
Consequently, when it came to stepping down from the airline’s hot seat, Zakaria knew early retirement was not an option. Instead, he took up the reins at Egypt’s first private aviation company, Smart Aviation.
Stepping into his office in the Ministry of Civil Aviation building, it was clear that Zakaria is hands-on… very hands-on.
“We need fuel in the Gulfstream now and where are the crew?” he barked down the telephone.
He had picked up on a charter opportunity for a Gulfstream G450 managed by Smart. “We have just one-hour-and-a-half to get crew, catering, fuel and permits,” he said.
Zakaria has been tasked with turning around the loss-making charter business, which had been formed in 2007 and operating in the VIP sector since 2009.
“So far it is working,” he said. “We have seen losses reducing each quarter and I am confident that we will now be turning into profit when the 2017 results are out.
“We have seven aircraft in the fleet, six Cessna Citation Sovereigns – one is managed by us and the others owned – and the Gulfstream, which we manage.”
The operator is part of the Avinode network and is seeing its international charters increasing.
“We lost a lot of our market after the revolution and it hasn’t recovered,” said Zakaria. “It has picked up over the past year but is probably only to 80% of what it was before.”
The Sovereigns are ideal for medical evacuation activities and two of the fleet have been made ready for medevac operations.
“These are the only real air ambulances in Egypt,” Zakaria said.
Smart also operates a King Air 350 for inspection and calibrating navigational aids. “We have worked on the systems at most Egyptian civil and military airports and also won contracts in Oman and Saudi Arabia. We have also begun working in South Sudan,” he added.
 

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