Aviation firm is Subic airport’s new tenant

By Henry Empeño, Business Mirror

Posted at Feb 09 2011 08:27 PM | Updated as of Feb 10 2011 06:53 AM

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—It may not be as big as the former tenant, but Guam-based Aviation Concepts Inc. (ACI), a US-certified aviation services provider, is expected to usher in new opportunities for the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA) just as Federal Express did in 1955.

The company, an American-Canadian joint venture, has refurbished a 100,000-square foot hangar at the SBIA and upgraded it to world-class standards for its second operations base in the Asia-Pacific region.

From there, the firm will provide alternative fix-based operator services to transient aircraft looking for inexpensive fueling, minimal handling fees and other low-cost technical requirements not found in Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, said ACI president and CEO Terry Habeck.

The project, which initially poured in $1.1 million to establish a full-service aviation center here, may prove to be the “resurrection” of the SBIA, said Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority administrator Armand Arreza.

The Subic airstrip, which was previously used by the US Navy to land military cargo planes, has largely lain unused since February 2009 when FedEx moved its Asia-Pacific hub to Guangzhou in China after operating out of the SBIA for 12 years.

But Habeck, during the ceremonial opening of the firm’s new facility at the SBIA, expressed optimism on ACI’s future in Subic.

“We see our future here, and we are starting to build up to better serve the Asian area, including Hong Kong, China and Indonesia,” said Habeck.

He added that the Subic facility, which is twice the size of its Subic hangar, will become an aircraft management center that will handle full maintenance services for aircraft and their flight crew, as well as record briefing, dispatching, and air ambulance for domestic and international flights.

According to company officials, the ACI, which began operations in 1996, had since become the first Federal Aviation Administration-certified aviation service operator to be based in Asia. It also became the first charter company in the region to be authorized to operate the Boeing business jet on an Air Carrier Certificate.

ACI’s Carejet affiliate is the first fixed-wing air ambulance service provider to be based in the Western Pacific.

Arreza said ACI’s decision to locate its expansion project in Subic is “a welcome opportunity that will help the SBMA realize its vision of becoming a service and logistics hub in Asia.

” He added that the agency is continuously improving logistics facilities in Subic, putting up new container terminals, road networks, bonding warehouses, and streamlining the document processing.

“With more competitive shipping costs and daily ship and aircraft calls to major regional logistics hubs, Subic should become a viable regional transshipment center,” he added.

Anthony Decostes, ACI managing director for the Philippines, said their company is expecting a lot of growth over the next few months, as the company, which had earlier put up a scheduling center for business aircraft in Manila, enjoys a stronger customer demand from CEOs of top 500 corporations, high-ranking government officials, and celebrities here.

Decostes added that the Subic facility will initially house 5 aircraft, including an air ambulance for medical evacuation. The firm’s $1.1 million initial investment does not include the cost of the aircraft to be based here, he added.