The VIP and corporate aviation sector is on the rise again, after being severely hit in the 2009 slump. An Aero Professional White Paper, published in 2017, reports that 2014 saw the first year of recovery, with major providers like the Air Charter Service reporting a yearly increase in sales of 9-10%.
Private jet ownership is also increasing, particularly in some hot spots like the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Germany and the UK, according to the Knight Frank Wealth Report 2017.
So with the industry bubbling, excellent MRO – maintenance, repair and overhaul of aircraft – matters. And that’s where large and efficient operators like AMAC Aerospace come in. Founded in 2007 in Basel, Switzerland, and with a hangar network of seven hangars spread around the continent, AMAC is the ‘largest privately-owned facility in the world offering narrow and wide-body VIP completion and maintenance for the corporate or private aviation market.’
We spoke to CEO of AMAC Aerospace, Kadri Muhiddin, about how his company maintains its dominant position in MRO.
What are your thoughts on the state of the VIP aviation industry?
The industry is about sixty years old, and at its inception flying as a novelty for everyone. Increasingly governments, royalty and then business people sought lone travel in their own aircraft. So that’s how the VIP sector emerged.
Today the passenger is far more sophisticated and informed. He or she expects or wants connectivity – a high-speed internet, a medical room, Self Defence Systems (SDS), a meeting room and so forth.
The world is getting busier and more security conscious which means that possessing your own aircraft can save time and give comfort.
We expect the sector to continue to expand, as current market trends suggest.
Can you tell me more about AMAC Aerospace and your role as CEO?
Our Group was founded in 2007, and between us, we have over 100 years of accumulated experience in the aviation industry. My whole working life has been in aviation. From becoming a qualified licenced Avionics engineer at the age of 21 years old, moving on to starting my own company – Gamit Ltd – in the UK, to heading our own MRO in 2007.
Since 2007, we have raised the bar with all activities involving maintenance, completion and refurbishment.
AMAC’s customer base includes governments and institutions, High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI), royal families and organisations with large fleets for charter, including narrow and wide-body aircraft. Our clients return to us because we do a great job.
We believe that whatever interesting projects presents itself to AMAC, we are prepared and capable with our engineers and craftspeople to prove ourselves. And it shows in our sales, which have surpassed the $2 billion mark in less than ten years of operation.
What is your approach when undertaking a new client or project? How do you ensure right from the start that the outcome meets the needs of everyone involved?
My role today is to leave most of it to my management team to start with presentations and discussions, and I monitor progress. Various departments can be involved at this stage so that I am often there in person when it comes to, for example, concluding the agreement.
If a client is interested in a completion service, a project typically moves from a design for the outfitting of the aircraft. Once the designs are ready to be distributed, we give the design package to our multi-disciplined engineering departments, and they will systematically dissect the details to make sure that the project can be delivered to the expectations of the owner – or which in our language is a ‘Go’.
It is rare for us to see a design package that might constitute a ‘No-Go’.
Once engineering has completed their analysis and work we then have our project management team draw up the necessary milestones for project production.
A number of meetings will be necessary to fine-tune any details the client might want, but once the project has surpassed the design and engineering phase the production will usually start straight away.
At AMAC Aerospace, our philosophy is to get the aircraft in and out on time and budget. We are not interested in creating a parking lot outside our hangars. We want the aircraft remain up in the sky to serve their purpose.
With this in mind, we look to ensure that we complete the project to the client’s satisfaction.
To date we have had 20 completion projects delivered on time, covering all sizes from narrow to wide-body.
With maintenance projects, we have surpassed over 3500 modification projects in the ten years we have existed, and those projects range from belly camera installations, SDS, new SATCOM installations through to specific STC developments for one-offs.
Tell me about your leadership style. How do you ensure everyone in your organisation understands your vision and works towards it?
My leadership is well known for its simple flat management with an open-door policy and no bureaucracy.
Since I worked on the shop floor, I’ve considered teamwork key. We are all a link in a chain, and each one is responsible for his or her part.
I work closely with my management team to make sure that our business runs smoothly and efficiently. I rely on their professional performance and the quality of their craftsmanship, which is second to none.
I do not take credit which is not mine. The company achievements and success only come from the people that I work with. They are the engine behind the scenes, and they are the ones who deserve the credit.
We also put a lot of thought into communication and team building. For example, we have a news circular for the whole company to contribute to with their personal news, marriages, births and so on. It gives AMAC an opportunity to share news with everyone, so we all know what is going on. It makes me proud to see what the staff are up to.
We also have a marathon team, which for me shows that the company considers itself as one team and one family.
What challenges and opportunities have you faced during your time here and how have they affected your role?
The challenges have been vast with new situations which present themselves on a continuous basis. For example, one day I’ll meet a king, and the next I must discuss a situation with an engineer.
For me, the challenge is to decide the correct approach when meeting with royalty and presidents, and then other persons of importance. One has to have the ability to communicate at various levels.
Each one of us seeks and expects a different attitude, and it is in judging the right connection which makes communication between us easier and more successful.
What are your future aspirations regarding your business? Do you have any plans or projects you would like to share with us?
In 2018, we have the first Airbus NEO ACJ320 project lined up, which we are very excited about that.
In general, we hope to continue to provide excellent service that delivers beyond the customer’s expectations.
Kadri Muhiddin is the winner of Business Worldwide Magazine’s Award for ‘Best CEO in the Private Aviation Services Industry.