Turkey is rapidly becoming the new hub for business jets and helicopters in West Asia and Eastern Europe. Turkish air taxi companies are ordering large numbers of new business jets. Having recovered from the economic crisis of 2001, Turkey's business aviation sector has grown significantly since 2004. Experts predict that at least 50 more planes and helicopters will come to Turkey in the next three years.
The country's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (SHGM) says there are 192 aircraft in 57 air taxi companies in Turkey. These include 133 planes, 31 helicopters, 23 light air vehicles and five balloons. Prospects seem bright, as 12 more companies have applied to the SHGM for flight permission.
The most expensive business jets ordered to date in Turkey are the Bombardier Global Express XRS, worth approximately $42 to 52 million and the Dassault Falcon 7X worth $47 million. The XRS has been ordered by the Çukurova Group, and will be handed over in 2009. Palmali will include a 7X in its fleet by 2011.
The cheapest business jets are the Cessna Mustang worth $2.6 million and the Eclipse 500 worth $2 million. The Atasay Group has ordered a record 180 Eclipse 500's; delivery is to start in 2008.
Atasay plans to sell these planes to countries in the Balkans, West Asia and Central Asia, apart from Turkey. It will also provide air taxi services with an aviation company it is setting up with Dutch partner ETIRC.
Turkey's rapidly growing helicopter market is seeing intense competition between giants like Agusta Westland, Bell, Eurocopter and Sikorsky. Medium and wide body helicopters are gaining ground on the smaller models used earlier. But the waiting period of two to three years for delivery of helicopters and business jets leads many businessmen to opt for the second hand or rental option.
Business jet maintenance centres are springing up because of the increasing number of planes. The Ankara-based EmAir company has provided MRO services for Cessna planes for years, but the Palmali Group based at Istanbul's Atatürk Airport is now establishing a maintenance centre for the French Dassault's Falcon series business jets. It will begin operating in October. The group will continue maintaining Hawker planes in partnership with Jet Aviation from Zurich.
Mid-range business jets are seeing the most rapid growth. Nowadays, businessmen prefer planes with a wider body and longer range, like the Falcon 2000LX, Challenger 605 and smaller aircraft like the Hawker 4000 and 900XP, and the Cessna Sovereign.
The Turkish air force is to float a tender for an air forces command control plane on 10 September. The Gulfstream G550 and Bombardier Global Express are top contenders, along with the Boeing Business Jet and the A319 corporate jet. The air force already has the Cessna Citation 7 and 2 models.
Following the election of Abdullah Gül as president, the government is also planning new plane purchases to conduct all flights from a joint pool, uniting the fleets of the country's president and prime minister.