CRUISING ALTITUDE

Abu Dhabi 2016 | AEROSPACE & DEFENSE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Brigadier General Eng. Abdulla Murad Albalooshi, CEO of Global Aerospace Logistics (GAL), on the company's projects, Emiratization, and working in the region.

Brigadier General Eng. Abdulla Murad Albalooshi
BIOGRAPHY
Brigadier General Eng. Abdulla Murad Albalooshi joined Global Aerospace Logistics, LLC (GAL) as the Director of Aviation in August 2010 after a successful 30-year career with the UAE Armed Forces. After being promoted to Chief Operating Officer in February 2011, he was then appointed CEO of GAL in October 2014. In October 1978, he joined the UAE Air Force as a cadet. Upon completion of his initial military training, he went to the US and received his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering in 1983.

GAL operates under the EDIC umbrella. What opportunities does that provide?

With so many companies providing defense services and products, there is enviably some confusion about the roles and responsibilities of the various entities. The formation of EDIC was meant to simplify and streamline the defense market with the ultimate aim of creating best-value solutions at the lowest possible cost to our customers. For the time being, GAL's primary focus will continue to be aviation and weapons system maintenance for the UAE Armed Forces, along with advanced technical training and creating employment opportunities for Emiratis. We have not fully transferred to EDIC, but we are in the process of doing so. This will increase the synergies because we have 16 companies now and in the next phase we will add several more. There are a few companies that can either work together or be merged due to the same service level that they provide. In the future, these services will be streamlined to avoid duplications in some areas.

GAL is the primary company developing aviation and weapons systems maintenance for the UAE Armed Forces. How can you grow the company within that exclusive mandate?

For the last nine years, we have been providing first- and second-line maintenance for the aviation sector in the UAE, mainly for the armed forces. Our vision is to go deeper into this and right now we are in discussion with customers in regard to performance-based logistics. This concept will be responsible for maintaining all the fleets from A to Z, providing manpower, doing maintenance service, managing repairs, and logistics—a complete package. We are holding the same discussion with the air force and air defense to enhance the operation of their central workshops. Even under the umbrella of EDIC, the defense market is competitive so we must build a legacy that will continue to be relevant and financially viable to support the UAE for many years to come.

The UAE is prominent within the air defense sector in the GCC, and spending is high. Are you considering an extension of your services to other defense forces in the region?

Over the last five years we have grown dramatically: there were 700 of us then, and now we are over 3,000. Since the establishment of GAL, the focus has been on supporting the UAE and, while we have been looking at regional opportunities, such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, we do not want to lose this focus. We have created a model that works well here in the UAE and we can use that model to the benefit of other countries in the region. We have also been approached by some OEMs that are interested in discussing projects in neighboring countries: they want a local company to go with them and work on their behalf, to reduce their costs. The plan is there, but we need the right time to execute it.

It is impressive that you have achieved such a high level of Emiratization and highly trained staff. How have you gone about this element of the business?

The UAE has a lack of local workers, but we are trying to attract a new generation by offering scholarship programs and working with customers to train people on their behalf. On the administration side we have a high percentage of Emiratization; however, on the technical side we are only about 25% local. Three years ago we were invited to a big conference in Bahrain of GCC Labor ministers, where we were presented with an award for localization. We are quite proud of that and we are trying to hire more Emiratis. Our pay scale is slightly higher than other companies, which gives us an advantage, especially when it comes to hiring locals. A recent development has been the new National Service Program and, through this program, we are finding many young people with no previous exposure to the military who would not have considered a career in the defense sector.