SAFE unveils expansion plans to transform aviation security: CEO

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund-owned commercial chopper operator, The Helicopter Co., is eyeing a global footprint and an initial public offering, revealed its CEO. 

Speaking to Arab News on the second day of the Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh, Arnaud Martinez explained that once the company solidifies its position in the Saudi market, it will seek avenues to expand and grow its business. 

This aligns with the Saudi sovereign fund-owned firm’s goal to generate long-term commercial returns and activate new sectors in the Kingdom that support the realization of Vision 2030. 

Martinez said: “Now, the market, the aim is not only KSA, right? There is something else than just KSA. We couldn’t go over and beyond the borders until we are securing our own market.” 

He added: “But once you secure the market, it’s a healthy, again, move to go and see what’s going on in other countries, other continents, and other bids. That’s what PIF does; we invest, we create something that the Kingdom needs, we grow the business, then you go on, you grow, you go over the borders, and then you go on an IPO journey.” 

During the interview, Martinez also shed light on how the Kingdom’s aviation market needs to be flexible and responsive to meet ongoing demand. 

“The agility, the reactivity is needed in the Saudi market. I cannot wait and wait to have a contract, wait to have a request from the client and say: wait for two years, wait for three years, I will bring you the assets, I will bring you the helicopter; we cannot do that,” the CEO stressed. 

“I need to plan and be agile. We have done that in the past five years. We only bring the aircraft that the Kingdom needs. I don’t buy aircraft because I love buying aircraft; we buy aircraft because we need aircraft,” he further emphasized. 

Moving on to the role of THC, Martinez underlined that the firm’s role is very different from five years ago. 

“The role five years ago was mainly to serve as an air mobility solution. The giga-projects, the famous giga-projects that we are talking about — rightly so, because they are fantastic projects: Red Sea Global, Amaala, NEOM, Qiddiya — all these projects were the core of the THC setup five years ago,” the CEO affirmed. 

“Now the scope is way different five years later. One of our key segments, really close to my heart, is how we impact the lives of the people by saving lives. So, we have a massive segment, with our partner, Saudi Red Crescent, and we are working really hard to provide emergency services to the Saudi population,” he underscored. 

Martinez also added, “The next five years will be as exciting as the past five years, maybe more.” 

The CEO continued to stress that in the upcoming years, THC needs to continue growing its medical services support, as well as its contribution to hospitality and tourism. 

He also added in that regard, “It’s time to see in the following few years what is abroad the border, right, overseas. You cannot be only a national champion; you want to be a regional leader in the worldwide plane. That’s the next wave, next step.” 

To support the firm in its plans, THC also seeks to invest in new technology, Martinez disclosed during the interview. 

With regards to having fully electric helicopters, the CEO said: “The platform is ready. The helicopter platform is not the issue. It’s the readiness of the ecosystem, the regulation, the infrastructure, the airspace, so many key elements around that. The platform, the helicopter is the easy piece.” 

Speaking on the Future Aviation Forum, Martinez noted: “The airshows are always a good opportunity for me to sit with people who have 50, 60, 70 years legacy, which I don’t have.” 

“We are 100 percent owned by PIF and part of that portfolio of aviation. So, this forum is always a good opportunity for us to meet with the ecosystem. We are not alone and growing alone. We are growing with many support services,” Martinez added. 

More than 5,000 global aviation industry experts, international airline leaders, and airport executives are expected to convene at the Future Aviation Forum. 

Organized by the General Authority of Civil Aviation, the three-day event will feature discussions on issues related to the global flight sector, air transport, and environmental sustainability in civil aviation, as well as talks on enabling advanced air transport and enhancing global connectivity. 

The event also aligns with the Kingdom’s ambition to become a leader in the sector within a decade, including securing $100 billion worth of investments by 2030. 

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