The Business Year

HE Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi

UAE, ABU DHABI - Transport

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General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Director General

Bio

HE Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi was appointed as Director General of the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) in April 2008. Prior to joining the GCAA, Al Suwaidi, a career air force veteran as pilot, held several senior positions in the UAE Air Force, including his last tour as Director of Air Force Operations. Upon his graduation from flying school in Abu Dhabi as a Helicopter pilot, Al Suwaidi started his career as pilot in the UAE Air Force in 1981. He served as Head of Training and Operation at Al Minhad base in Dubai in 2001. He was appointed as Deputy Director Operations in the UAE Air Force in 2006, and promoted to Director of Operations before being appointed as Director General of the GCAA. Al Suwaidi, who obtained a law degree from Beirut Arab University in Lebanon in 2004, was appointed Chairman of the Arab Civil Aviation Commission Executive Council in May 2010.

How does GCAA deal with security issues presented by an expanding market? We are the sole agency in the UAE charged with the oversight of security measures at airports and […]

How does GCAA deal with security issues presented by an expanding market?

We are the sole agency in the UAE charged with the oversight of security measures at airports and companies. However, we are in close cooperation with other security agencies and the police in the UAE. We have one of the best security systems in the world, and have yet to find any weak points. That being said, we continue to advance and enhance our security so as to always be ready for any type of threat at any time.

What is the significance of the recently signed open skies agreement with Finland for the UAE in terms of the movement of people and goods, UAE quality standards, and the local aviation sector in general?

We have signed two agreements: one with Central Africa and other regions in addition to the Finnish agreement. We have, so far, signed 160 agreements. The UAE also signed a bilateral accord covering air transport with Mozambique. The agreement will pave the way for airlines to launch services for the movement of passengers and cargo, and will serve as a basis for the growth of trade and investment and the development of partnerships in sectors such as tourism between the two countries. We are looking to plan more agreements because part of our vision is to improve the connectivity of the UAE with the world. There is no use in buying aircraft if you have no flights to operate. I think we can lay the groundwork for airlines, and from there help facilitate their expansion.

What are the main challenges the GCAA faces during this era of increasing partnerships between UAE airlines and foreign operators?

Challenges will continue not only for the growth of our national carriers and operators, but also with the increasing demand for our airports from foreign operators. Those foreign operators come from countries that also maintain very high service standards and high levels of safety and security.

What initiatives are in place within the GCAA to encourage more UAE nationals to join the aviation sector?

We have jointly launched a campaign with other entities to encourage the national and local community to join the aviation sector. The campaign started by visiting schools and offering scholarships to UAE nationals. We have reached almost 30% Emiratization at the Sheikh Zayed Air Navigation Centre, and there is an ongoing plan is to increase that number further still.

What does the recent certification of education and training institutions, such as the Gulf Centre for Aviation Studies, mean for both domestic and regional human resources development in the sector?

We have many Emirati training centers serving the sector, one of which is the Gulf Centre for Aviation Studies. We are among the best in the world now in terms of providing training in safety and security, and our infrastructure is highly advanced. We are now offering training beyond the region, as far as Africa and the Americas.We are offering free training for many countries as well. Of course, this training will help us to make sure that wherever our aircraft go, we operate in a safe and secure environment. Internationally, we have agreements with the Latin American Commission to provide training services, as well as an aviation strategy.

Do you think that the UAE can be described as a business hub?

The UAE is a hub already, and European hubs are moving toward us. We handle almost 10 times our population in terms of passengers. We have a population of around 7 million, and we handle about 70 million passengers; no one else does that. Thanks to our infrastructure, short decision-making cycle, and our geographic location, we have a great advantage.

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