FLIGHT DEPT PROFILE

Ceramica Cleopatra Group prepares for more Gulfstreams, Cirrus Vision SJ50s

Cairo-based industrial conglomerate operates Gulfstream G550 to promote ceramic tile, citrus fruit, hotel and media investments.

By Grant McLaren
Editor-at-Large


Group Cleopatra Chairman Mohamed Abou el-Enein prepares to board his G550 at GVA (Geneva, Switzerland). More high-tech bizav acquisitions are on the chairman's agenda.

Group Cleopatra is the world's largest producer of ceramic tiles with annual production in excess of 900 million square feet of Italian inspired product manufactured in state-of-the-art Egyptian factories. Chairman Mohamed Abou el-Enein-known locally as the Tile King-launched Group Cleopatra in 1983 with just a few employees and big dreams.

Today, with 14,500 employees, Group Cleopatra has grown to become a leading group of diversified companies with activities ranging from agricultural development and tourism to mining and real estate.

Cleopatra Silicon Valley manufactures the first integrated circuit cards (smart cards) in the region, Galleria Cleopatra is the largest shopping mall in Alexandria, Egypt, and Mohamed's latest venture, Cleopatra Media, is poised to launch 3 satellite TV stations in Egypt.

To connect the chairman and company executives with customers and business opportunities at the 4 corners of the world Group Cleopatra deploys a Gulfstream G550 with orders in the works for an additional G550, 2 G650s and 2 Cirrus Visions.

"I've always had a passion to create new businesses and try to do things that have never been done before," says Mohamed who's reclaimed vast tracks of desert in southern Egypt to grow citrus fruits, created the world's largest ceramic tile factory on barren desert property and serves as a member of the Egyptian parliament.

"I believe in managing all my businesses personally and corporate aircraft have made this possible over the years," he says. "My plan is to use the very latest in technology and this extends to our corporate flight department. One day we look forward to operating a SSBJ for long-haul international flights, as well as some form of tiltrotor for local transport within Egypt and the region."

Two professional pilots-Dir Aviation Capt Heimo Koncilia and First Officer Michaela Plank-support Mohamed, an ATP rated G550 captain himself, on a global schedule now up to 750 annual flying hours. Dir of Maintenance Roy Kemp supports the G550 at CAI (Intl, Cairo, Egypt), Aviation Ops Mgr Emad Fahem orchestrates a busy flying schedule while Universal Weather & Aviation is tasked with international trip support.

(Main photo) Group Cleopatra headquarters in Cairo. (Insets L-R) Latest offerings on display at Ceramica Cleopatra's Cairo showroom, worker inspects top-end bidet prior to shipment, robotic arm sprays finishing touches on sink at factory.

Group Cleopatra has 2 private runways-AIS (Ain Sukhna, Egypt) with a visual approach located south of Suez on the Red Sea coast, and GSQ (Shark el Oweinat, Egypt) with an NDB approach next to Cleopatra agricultural farming activities near the Sudanese border.

Both company runways, which are daylight VFR use only, are equipped with hangars, towers and a full accoutrement of safety and firefighting equipment. Corporate missions range from 4 to 6-stop same-day sorties throughout Egypt and the region-with G550 flights as short as 98 nm between CAI and ALY (Alexandria, Egypt)-up to max-range 13-hour-plus launches to Asia and North America.

Longest G550 flight sectors to date include CAI-PBI (Intl, West Palm Beach FL) at 13 hr, NRT (Narita, Tokyo, Japan)-CAI at 12 hr 50 min and ERS (Windhoek, Namibia)-STT (St Thomas, US Virgin Islands) at 12 hr 30 min. Other corporate missions involve moving teams of engineers to industrial development sites and ferrying management groups to industry trade fairs worldwide.

"We live in hotels and run busy schedules with about 60 hours flying each month and 15 or so RONs," says Koncilia, a 13,000-hr TT pilot with 27 years flying experience who's type rated in the Gulfstream II, III, IV, V and G550 and in the Boeing BBJ, and is also a JAA examiner on the GIV, GV, G550 and BBJ.

"Whatever is doable we do-from multihop day trips throughout Egypt to max-range intercontinental missions." He adds, "My initial plan was to come here for 2 weeks as an instructor pilot for Mohamed, but I've been here more than a year and a half so far. It's an exciting and challenging routine-and the G550 is a perfect aircraft for our mission mix."

An example of the sort of schedule Koncilia, Plank and Mohamed manage is the planned flight activity for May 22-the final day of EBACE 2008 at GVA (Geneva, Switzerland. "Our plan was to depart GVA for BLQ (Bologna, Italy), continue to CAI to pick up a VIP passenger before heading to NCE (Nice-Côte d'Azur, France)," explains Koncilia. "As overnight parking was not permitted during that time at NCE we'd then continue on to BLQ to overnight."

The crew had to completely change all slots 3 times, due to delayed passenger arrival at GVA, and ended up flying a late afternoon departure GVA-SSH (Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt), where the chairman owns hotels clustered above the shimmering drama of the Red Sea, then on to CAI and NCE before overnighting at BLQ at 2 or 3 am the next morning.

Plank, a former Cessna Citation CJ1 pilot, joined Group Cleopatra 18 months ago with 1000 hrs TT and has now racked up 700 G550 flight hrs. "I love flying the G550 although it was quite an upgrade from the CJ1," she says. "Our missions take us all over the world, from Central Africa to Russia and China, North and South America, Hawaii and the Pacific Rim.

My favorite flight so far was a trip we made to PBH (Paro, Bhutan)-one of the most isolated and least developed nations in the world-with a 6445-ft runway at 7332 ft elevation and a steep 2500-fpm visual approach descent through the mountains with a challenging contingency procedure."

Fleet development

In the early 1980s Mohamed bought the first motorized glider in the Middle East-a Valentin Taifun 17EII-and flew it for 3 years. "My business is on the ground but my passion was in the air," he says. "I would fly between the pyramids of Giza, banking over the Great Sphinx, and was quickly sold on private aviation."

Traveling to YGM (Gimli MB, Canada) Mohamed completed a private pilot course, soloing after 21 days, before proceeding to Wichita KS to order a Beech Baron in 1986. Mohamed flew the Baron for 6 years and returned to the US in 1999 to take delivery of a King Air 200 while awaiting an on-order GIVSP.

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