Malta’s aviation sector is taking off loudly as highly respected and well-recognised companies turn to the island for aircraft registration and services. The sector owes its recent success to a new legislative framework that transformed Malta into a competitive location for both private and corporate jets. More than 200 aircraft are now registered in Malta, up from about 80 at the end of 2010. Private aviation companies such as Vistajet, Comlux, Orion Malta and Carree all have registered aircraft in the country.
The story of Malta’s aviation sector began over a decade ago when Lufthansa Technik made the first major investment, a hangar costing more than €60 million. This prompted other companies to follow suit, accelerating similar investment and paving the way for an aviation centre of excellence that today offers everything from registration and finance to repair, maintenance and training.
Building on Success
Aviation contributes around 2.5 per cent to Malta’s GDP and supports approximately 5,000 jobs. By international standards, the local industry is small, but growth is steady. Thanks to an appealing regulatory framework and continued investment from the government, as well as private companies, Malta is well on its way to becoming a serious competitor in Europe’s aircraft registration and management industry.
Malta’s aircraft registration legislation, introduced in October 2010, offers an easy registration procedure for private aircraft and has been designed to accommodate the most demanding structures and trends in aircraft ownership. The country has implemented the Cape Town Convention, now widely recognised as a market standard in aircraft finance transactions. The ratification of the convention places Malta at the forefront of the EU. In addition, the Civil Aviation Directorate at Transport Malta provides an attentive, personal service to companies choosing to set up on the island due to the current register size.
Aviation Service Centre
The Maltese authorities realised that their commercial proposition needed to be exceptionally strong to attract aviation business, and they concentrated their efforts not only on introducing cutting-edge regulations, but also on building the support infrastructure. A major boost for Malta’s aviation industry was the inauguration of the new €17 million, 200,000-square metre Safi Aviation Park in 2012, which hosts a number of business aircraft operators and facilities for aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO). Other Malta-based operators besides Lufthansa Technik are Medavia, Aeromaritime and SR Technics. Malta is also emerging as a key European location for crew and pilot training. Links between industry and Malta’s vocational college MCAST are helping to ensure an adequate supply of skills, while the government has extended tax-friendly policies to the aviation sector. Any new airline, software firm, aviation manufacturer, MRO or other service company that chooses Malta in the future will be able to reap multiple benefits.
With the thriving maritime industry as an example to follow, the island has made the aviation industry part of its economic development agenda and is determined to attract and support the growth of a number of activities. The government sees significant potential for further growth by attracting large aircraft-leasing and charter companies. The regulator, Transport Malta, has developed a procedure for aircraft leasing, and VAT payments are only due for the time an aircraft is being used in the European Union. With 40 per cent of the world’s aircraft being leased today, aircraft leasing proves to offer tremendous opportunities for Malta to position itself as a Mediterranean hub alongside established or emerging centres, such as Dublin and Singapore. Transport Malta has a major role in identifying future growth areas, and is also looking into the testing and licensing of drones.
Malta has truly all the right elements in place for aviation to grow and prosper. When one considers Malta’s enviable physical infrastructure, strategic location, established industry base and English-speaking workforce, it becomes clear that investing in Malta’s aviation sector is a unique opportunity.