GAMA Aviation is to double the size of its new Glasgow airport hangar to attract more private jet business, The Scotsman has learned.
The Hampshire-based firm’s move - which comes as a sign of optimism of economic recovery - was revealed as it officially launched a £3.8 million maintenance and executive aircraft base, with the creation of around 20 jobs.
Chief executive Marwan Khalek expects to further boost the workforce from 40 to 70-75 when the second phase of its hanger is completed next year.
The 2,500-square metre base, on the south eastern edge of the airport, is also a new home for the Scottish Air Ambulance, which Gama operates, in addition to accommodating VIP aircraft for hire, such as the Learjet 45.
Mr Khalek said a similar base - the size of the current Glasgow hanger - was also planned for Aberdeen next Spring, with possible expansion to Edinburgh on the horizon.
Gama hopes to capitalise on an expected influx of celebrities and sporting stars next year for the MTV Europe Music Awards and Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and the Ryder Cup golf tournament at Gleneagles, to use the base’s “executive terminal” that bypasses the main part of Glasgow Airport.
But Mr Khalek said its expansion in Glasgow was based on winning more aircraft maintenance and stabling contracts from firms who currently have such work done south of the Border.
They include defence firm BAE Systems, shoe repairer Timpson, and Direct Flight, which operates fishery protection flights.
Mr Khalek said: “I had expected we would have been making a decision about phase two of the Glasgow expansion in a year’s time, but it has been pushed forward by the interest and level of specific business, so we are going ahead now.
“Businesses use aircraft as an enabler - it’s effectively a productivity tool, enabling companies to win more orders and create more jobs. A significant time saving can be derived from this form of transport.”
Mr Khalek said the current recession was the fourth that 30-year-old Gama was “living and surviving through”.
He said: “The heyday of 2006-07 will not be coming back, but there are definite signs of an improvement in the UK market.”
He said positive signs from the US economy were likely to lead to a “more visible” recovery here too.
The chief executive said his optimism over growth in Glasgow could lead to a possible future Edinburgh base.
He said: “I cannot help feeling if we prove the concept in what we are doing here, then replicating it at other airports would be the logical progression.”
The new base will enable critically-ill air ambulance patients to be transferred to an ambulance within the hanger when required, as already happens in Aberdeen.
Gama now also has a back-up aircraft available for air ambulance duties in Glasgow, rather than having to hire one in.
Glasgow Airport managing director Amanda McMillan said: “This new facility is a fantastic vote of confidence in the city of Glasgow and the airport. Gama Aviation is making a considerable investment, creating jobs and new business, and the announcement of a second phase of investment underlines this commitment.”