Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Anniversaries

It appears that everything I was involved with in my professional life has an anniversary and a milestone this year.
  • Royal Jordanian (RJA) is celebrating its 50th Anniversary
  • Air Arabia (ABY) is celebrating its 10th Anniversary
  • Etihad (EY) is celebrating its 10th Anniversary
  • Al Jaber Aviation (AJA) celebrated its 5th Anniversary
My involvement with each organization varied but I always managed to learn  and contribute.

I joined RJA at a time when the airline was expanding its fleet with new B727s, B747 and L1011s. A new cycle of  B707 heavy maintenance (D) checks was starting and the decision was made to bring the capability inhouse. The planning was done and the new hangar at QAIA was used before the airport was completed. It was an exciting time, then capabilities for B727 and L1011 was developed, it felt like routine. The next milestone was the introduction of the A310s and A320s into the fleet.

Of course there were other challenges some good others not so good. The development of third party contract maintenance that went a long way to cover the Maintenance and Engineering Department costs. Then the first Gulf War that shut down the airlines for four (4) months; but every challenge is an opportunity we performed a B727 D check and B707 D check for a customer. RJ has a pioneering spirit, it was always a tad bureaucratic, but when the chips were down everyone came together and made things happen, a real can do attitude.

At the age of 50 the airline still has this attitude, it has the ability to rebound from challenges; most of them global geopolitical (wars, uprisings, financial crisis, etc.).

RJ brought home the value of "if there is a will there is a way" and doing great things on a budget. I spent eighteen (18) years there and made life long friends.

Start ups are messy affairs. They are hard work and require focus, perseverance and resilience, and all that before first flight. Once operations start it is even messier.

I was at GAMCO now ADAT at the time Air Arabia and Etihad started. I was tasked to ensure an MCC and a scheduling unit are operational at the time the airline begin operations. Both airlines started within a week of each other, ABY on 28 October and EY on 5 November 2003. Small beginnings leading to greater things.

Working for an LCC is a life changing experience. I joined Air Arabia on November 1, 2004, a year after commencing operations. An LCC is a way of life that looks at value for money, efficiency and productivity in a way no legacy airline ever does. I worked for RJA and we were frugal, ABY took that to a higher standard.

Legacy airlines ignored ABY at first as a flash in the pan and an experiment that is bound to fail. Until they felt the heat and then we felt the pressure. Ten profitable years later, ABY is there to stay, true to its business model when others came and failed or changed.

I joned Al Jaber Aviation in October 2008 going from an LCC to a VVIP Corporate Jet Operator. Getting an AOC must be one of the most challenging things a person can do. I heard stories in ABY of working out of a few offices in Sharjah Cargo Building. Well at AJA it was a few offices out of Al Bateen Airport when it was still an air base. Having GCAA inspections while still building offices and  getting manuals approved and licenses accepted before starting operation requires staying power. The first aircraft, an Embraer Legacy 600 was delivered three weeks before the AOC was issued. The proving flights and final GCAA inspections were performed and the AOC was delivered on June 1, 2009 at the time of the second Legacy 600 delivery. The AMO Certificate was issued on 28 May 2009. Operating business jets is totally different than scheduled carriers. There is no schedule and flights are launched at relatively short notice, because even planned flights change at short notice as clients' change plans.

Thirty Five years later, I am starting all over again. Start ups are still messy and require focus, staying power and resilience.

Well 2013 is definitely a year of challenges and milestones. These four (4) airlines regardless of their age still face challenges some are internal but most are external. They all need to look internally and determine what is needed for them to thrive in the next decade. What brought them so far may not and probably is not what will take them forward. After all, successful companies fail because they insist on doing what made them successful in the first place, ignoring the ever changing environment they operate in. Things change and so should organizations.

For now, Happy Anniversary to all four airlines and to my friends and colleagues who are still there, moved on or retired. We all shared experiences, challenges and yes good times. Looking forward to the continued success of Royal Jordanian, Air Arabia, Etihad and AJA.



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