More choice and protection to lessors in Aircraft Registration Act amendments

14th March 2020

Malta was allocated its aircraft registration prefix 9H on independence in 1964. However, the success the Malta Aviation Register is enjoying is much more recent

The Aircraft Registration Act is expected to be amended in the near future giving owners more choices while ensuring protection to lessors, Transport Minister Ian Borg has said, when speaking about the success story the Malta Aviation Register has been having in recent years.

Malta was allocated its aircraft registration prefix 9H on independence in 1964. However, the success the Malta Aviation Register is enjoying is much more recent, and appears brighter than ever, according to Dr Borg.

The register, he said, markets itself with its very success. “The fact that we have one of the fastest growing registries speaks for itself. This sustained pattern of growth is a direct result of the efficiency and organised operations of our Civil Aviation Directory, together with a positive reputation and a strong but flexible legal framework.”

The fact that more and more aircraft owners and operators are deciding to register their aircraft in Malta is testament to the trustworthiness and good service the Malta regulator and registry give when dealing with clients, Dr Borg added, underscoring a determination to continue exceeding expectations.

Initially, he had set a 400-aircraft registration target, which, of course, has been met and exceeded.

“We are very ambitious for this sector. I believe it’s common knowledge that our maritime industry has exceeded every expectation – and every goal – and is now the largest in Europe and the sixth in the world, with the potential of stepping up into fifth place.

ian borg

Transport and Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg

“We are very satisfied that we are witnessing the same patterns in our aviation industry,” he explained.

“At the same time, we cannot let hubris cloud our judgement. I have always believed in pacing oneself and setting goals and milestones for every step of the way.

“For 2020, we have set our sights on reaching 460 aircraft while fostering proportionate growth with regard to Air Operator Certificates,” he asserted.

Yet, it is not only about numbers, according to the Transport Minister. “We want to be proactive when it comes to infrastructure, investment and sustainable development in the sector.

“This is the right way to grow,” he stated. The Minister noted that the sector has come a long way from where it was in 2012, with the aviation industry becoming one of the pillars of the Maltese economy, and the register has since grown by nearly 250 per cent, “an achievement we could have only dreamed of eight years ago”.

Dr Borg noted that the industry has also created opportunities of gainful employment, be it within the regulatory sector, the aviation service sector or, more recently, in the field of leasing. He highlighted the industry’s positive ripple effect on other sectors, such as law firms, financial services and accommodation, among others.

Moreover, the Government, he pledged, will continue striving for further growth so more Maltese people can join the industry, receive training and progress in fulfilling careers within the sector.

Dr Borg admitted he is very satisfied with the level of interest shown by operators who continue to choose Malta, put their trust and invest their money in this country.

He noted that the number of Air Operator Certificates issued is satisfactory and included some that brought “great promise for our register and great wealth to our economy”.

Dr Borg was, however, quick to remark that this does not mean the desired destination has been reached. “In reality,” the Minister continued, “a sector such as aviation for an island state like Malta is like a train on a track that never ends.

We will never really arrive because there is always more we can do to improve, always more we can do for our country and for this important sector.”

In this regard, the civil aviation authorities would like to see a more proportionate growth in Air Operator Certifications when compared to the number of registrations.

The Minister is certain that the “capable” Civil Aviation Directorate, within Transport Malta, fully backed by the Government, will continue to attract and secure more investment.

Charles Pace

Captain Charles Pace, Head of Transport Malta's Civil Aviation Directorate

Yet, the question is whether these positive developments might necessitate further expansion at the airport. Here, the Minister said that “I believe we need to be proactive. That is what we are doing when it comes to maritime.

“It would be wise to set our sights on similar endeavours in the aviation sector and I believe this needs to be a global effort. We need to make better utilisation of the land close to the airport, to continue maximising the opportunities presenting themselves.

Having sufficient airport infrastructure means a more efficient service for consumers, enhanced attractiveness for investors and less time and fuel wasted due to air traffic delays,” he asserted. This positive view of the sector was reiterated by Charles Pace, a seasoned airline pilot who now heads Transport Malta’s Civil Aviation Directorate.

“We got here because we had to invent a way to make ourselves significant in this industry,” he said, attributing the success to the manner in which the Directorate deals with aircraft owners. “We make ourselves accessible and approachable,” he remarked.

Today, there are 420 aircraft on the register, including helicopters and planes, the biggest being an Airbus A380 operated by HiFly and bearing the registration 9H-MIP. The Directorate handles anything between five and eight new registrations every week.

Ryanair subsidy, Malta Air, has already registered over 60 aircraft in Malta and more will follow. It is not just aircraft that are being registered but air companies too, he explained. Three have already submitted a ‘proper’ application for an Air Operator Certificate and another five are in the queue. Capt. Pace spoke about the potential openings linked to this ‘niche’ and highlighted the benefits of looking at the leasing and financing aspect of aviation.

“They will be the final jewel in the crown. But we need to adopt an aviation mentality. We need to think more aviation,” he remarked. Capt. Pace went on to further articulate what he meant.

This is an extract of an article which featured in the February edition of The Malta Business Observer

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