The BOV Aviation Outlook 2016: Malta – Maldives in the Mediterranean?

Could Malta become the Maldives of the Mediterranean for seaplane operations? This was the recurring theme during the 5th edition of the BOV Aviation Outlook, the aviation expo and unique platform for all players in the aviation industry in Malta held at Bank of Valletta’s Head Office in Santa Venera.

Following the demise of European Coastal Airlines in Croatia, the seaplane business in Europe took a battering with negative effect on Nordic Seaplanes too. The BOV Aviation Outlook conference shed light on the invaluable experience gained by the Civil Aviation Directorate in the regulating and monitoring of a seaplane operation.

Bank of Valletta Chief Credit Business Development Officer Albert Frendo expressed his satisfaction that the Bank is hosting this event for the 5th time. “Over the recent years, Malta has witnessed growth in the aviation industry, attracting internationally renowned organisations to set up operations in Malta, including maintenance, back office set-ups, research and development and production of aircraft components,” said Mr Frendo. “Recently aviation in Malta has been under focus as part of the Government’s strategy to promote Malta to become a ‘one-off destination’ in the aviation industry,” he explained.

Barry Lightening, who is an experienced Head of Flight Operations at a seaplane company, highlighted what needs to be done so that the burden on any prospective entrants in this line of business is alleviated. He was followed by Dr Francesca Galea, an aviation lawyer. Dr Galea spoke about the fiscal and legal requirements and how the seaplane industry could help boost the already well-established and fast expanding marine industry.

Peter Hermle, CEO at world renowned aircraft manufacturer Dornier Seawings, accompanied by Ing. Simon Schell presented their top seaplane, the Dornier Seastar. In their presentation, they delved into how this aircraft can become the centre of seaplane activity in Malta.

Portuguese aeronautical entrepreneur Paulo Figueiredo used the BOV Aviation Outlook to launch his novel idea of combining seaplanes and tourism. Paulo is an ex-NetJets commercial director and also a graduate of the Portuguese Air Force. He has now launched the company Floatlook & Travel. It has the financial backing of a large hotel chain in Portugal. Initially it will be using Cessna Caravan amphibians to shuttle passengers around its network. However, it is hoping to quickly expand into the Mediterranean basin and has targeted Malta as its possible first base outside of Portugal. Paulo Figueiredo has already opened a number of discussions with local entrepreneurs with the aim of securing a local partner with whom he can launch these services.

Minister for Tourism Hon. Dr Edward Zammit Lewis said that the creation of an indigenous aviation sector has only been possible through the coordinated implementation of a long-term strategy requiring the participation of a cross-section of stakeholders including the public sector, local and foreign investors, technical innovators, academia, and a very competent workforce which is constantly ready to learn and adapt.

“The comeback of seaplanes flying over our ports this coming December clearly demonstrates Government’s commitment to actively support this niche within the aviation sector while in parallel also further developing related services around it,” said Dr Zammit Lewis. “The local aviation sector is now firmly on the growth path and is becoming an even more important contributor to our economic success, as Government continues to pursue and implement its vision for this sector over the next years.”

As is customary, the BOV Aviation Outlook honoured a number of industry leaders, who through their contribution helped in no small way to put Malta’s aviation industry on the world map.

The BOV Aviator of the Year award was presented by Mr Albert Frendo to Captain Norman D’Amato, a veteran flyer with more than 20,000 hours under his belt. As Base Captain for Ryanair, he has been instrumental in the Irish carrier’s success on the island and in managing Ryanair’s astronomical growth as it prepares to overtake Air Malta as the largest carrier at Malta International Airport.

Riccardo Flask, Senior Partner BOV Aviation Outlook presented the BOV Leader of the Year Award to Captain Joseph Agius. Captain Agius is currently in the employ of AirX but has held senior positions with the national carrier Air Malta and Jet Magic and was one of the inspectors at the Civil Aviation Directorate way back in 2012. Captain Agius has held a number of management roles whilst at Air Malta and had also a stint at AzzurrAir.

The BOV Lifetime Achievement Award was presented by Hon. Minister Dr Edward Zammit Lewis to Charles Stafrace.  During the 1970s, Charles Stafrace was instrumental in setting up the Malta Aviation Society. He was also an active aviation journalist and researcher and has authored a number of books namely under the Warpaint Series. Mr Stafrace was also appointed ambassador to Greece before he retired from the diplomatic corps.

The Minister delivered the concluding speech. He remarked that he was positively impressed with what he saw and revealed that the government will make its utmost to help this nascent industry take off. The aviation sector has gone from strength to strength and the government is determined to see this sector flourish and gain a more central role in Malta’s economic growth.

The BOV Aviation Outlook team is led by senior partners Riccardo Flask, Marvic Bugeja, Joanne Calleja and Captain Sinclair Portelli who worked tirelessly to attract top notch speakers to this year’s event.