By Belén de Francisco
Alejandro Ibrahim Perera is PhD in Aeronautical Engineering from the Technical University of Madrid. His prestigious career in aeronautical companies led him to become the first General Manager of the Airport of Teruel in 2012. Four years later, due to his extensive experience, this airport has become the largest aircraft parking area in Europe. In fact, there is up to a maximum of 84 parked aircrafts and around ten companies established which create about 170 direct jobs and hundreds of indirect jobs. Last year, the air operations quadrupled reaching 2,000, and in 2017 the forecast is to quadruple those operations till 8,000. Owing to its high growth, a hangar with an aircraft capacity of type B737 or A320, has been recently finished. Furthermore, the Airport of Teruel is the airport with less operating expenses due to an efficient management with on-demand services and adapted to their clients’ needs. Because of all these reasons, the magazine Ejecutivos acknowledges the work and management of Alejandro Ibrahim Perera and awards him ‘executive of the year’.
How can a province such as Teruel have the largest aircraft parking area and aircraft maintenance in Europe? What are the key factors? In Teruel, we have converted its peculiarities and apparent weaknesses, such as the dry, semidesert weather, with a small population, and amidst large capitals, into its real strength with the restructuring business of the aeronautical sector. The weather of Teruel is ideal for the aircraft maintenance. Due to its large surfaces, the greatest aircraft parking area in Europe could be created. The business model and its management have distinguished us from the rest by offering an exclusive and unique service with a specialisation factor and competitive costs. A key factor has been to recognise the needs of the industry to come ahead of time, by offering a range of services and unique opportunities: long-term aircraft parking, aircraft recycling, rocket engine test, aeronautical training of commercial pilots, medical service with a helicopter, aircraft and flight test, general and executive aviation, tests, research and innovation to meet the environmental and development needs of the air transport industry.
Broadly, what are the major challenges of the Spanish airport industry? The airport industry has to adapt better to the clients, to offer viable business models, to innovate continuously, and to know the environment in order to set up a network which allows transport and logistics development according to the characteristics of its location. Owing to that, it is needed to develop the aerospace industry with a Strategic Plan more firmly. It has to be done on a priority basis in order to consolidate it over the next few years, to maintain the predominance in the aerospace industry. And in this way, the development with regulations and legislation shall be facilitated and they shall allow strengthening new emerging technologies, such as recycling, rockets, UAV or drones, aerospace industry, efficient management airports, space tourism and a greater network of cluster which invigorate the industry and allow the companies to achieve opportunities in order to develop their businesses and create jobs.
In 2012, you were appointed Manager of the Airport. What assessment do you do during all these years in charge? A very positive assessment, at both personal and professional level. Developing the first-class infrastructure in a pioneering, novel and innovative business model have made possible to position Teruel in a global benchmark of the aeronautics. It has also allowed adding to the initiatives which shall help this province to be a place continuing to focus on its development with the intention of positioning and generating strategies which strengthen a social and economic impact for the future generations.
What have been the key milestones that you would underline in your management? Due to being a new airport, everything has been done for the first time. First of all, in February 2013 we had to verify and obtain the air traffic authorisation after six months since I started as the first Manager of the airport. This situation meant to implement the air operations after having obtained all the licences, authorisations, technical documentation, and the inspections required by the Aeronautical Authorities. The beginning was difficult because of the pressure for starting the airport, and for dispelling doubts about its viability in a time of crisis in the country. The classification as an international airport, with non-Schengen flights, was achieved in January 2014. This made possible a new worldwide dimension. Moreover, the first private rocket engine test in Spain has been placed here in the airport, because it is an example of its space technology. Over the last few years, new infrastructures such as the pavement of the parking depot, fuel area, new hangar, and extension of the aircraft parking have been developed in parallel. In addition, the medical service of 112 is also here with a helicopter which is operational every day of the year. In September 2016, the flight school of commercial pilots arrived as well as a UAV operator before long. In the first four years, the airport already has ten companies established with more than 180 direct jobs and hundreds of indirect jobs. Over the past two years, we have quadrupled the air operations regarding the previous year, and in 2017 we are going to exceed 8,000 operations. The airport of Teruel has become the greatest parking of large aircrafts in Europe and the first in Spain regarding the aircraft recycling and dismantling, which is a pioneering industry and environmentally friendly. This airport has the least operating expenses, our operating incomes exceed in more than 18 of the Spanish network, and we have achieved the balanced budget between income and expenditure. We are going to continue investing an average of 1.5 million of euro per year in the growth and development of this infrastructure which will be, increasingly, a great economic and social potential for Aragon.
‘I HAVE NOTICED A STRONG INTEREST IN THE LOGISTICS AND THE INDUSTRY IN A REGION WITH GREAT POSSIBILITIES’
Teruel is globally recognised as an international enclave of aeronautical and space research. What could you tell us about it? I would just say that it is true. It has not been a matter of luck, but of continuous work, trusting and supporting the projects. Companies have invested their efforts in Teruel despite certain initial difficulties and they see now how their businesses have consolidated in the aerospace industry. Therefore, they have taken as an alternative the work in a place with a great potential and where the dreams of arriving and flying come true. The results are the best example in order to make known what we could develop in Teruel. And, as I like to say, this is only the beginning of a great growth which will continue in the coming years.
What objectives do you set in the short term? I want to strengthen the airport of Teruel with a greater presence, new clients, and continue to offer the best solutions to the global aeronautical industry with the day-to-day work. Due to the high growth, the aircraft parking area will be doubled in the next few months. And we expect to improve the test and innovation with new business lines which are defining them with companies of the industry.
How do you see the business fabric of Aragon in general, and of Teruel in particular? What improvements could be implemented? I have lived in Aragon for five years and I have noticed a strong interest in the logistics and the industry in a region with great possibilities. There is a lack of larger budgets for the development of the infrastructures and for making possible that places such as Teruel could have a ground transportation network to give it increased capacity with the Cantabrian-Mediterranean Corridor. This corridor would help to support a better development of transport.
Finally, what means the award ‘executive of the year’? It is a great satisfaction and gratitude because of the recognition of the work. And the award is also an incentive to continue the work and achieve greater development and potential of the Airport growth. Undoubtedly, I consider myself a person who likes his job and enjoy with it, and this recognition on the part of colleagues and people from Aragon makes me feel very fortunate. Thanks to all who have trusted my work and who have supported me, as well as those who will continue to collaborate for this great province of Teruel with a clear vision of the future.