Born in Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, Alejandro Ibrahim Perera, the general manager at Teruel Airport, has had a passion for all things aviation for as long as he can remember.
“Growing up on an island meant that I was always travelling by plane as a child. Back then (in the 60s and 70s) space exploration and the development of the aerospace industry were constantly talked about as they were always on the news” says Ibrahim.
He was also inspired by his older brother, a civil engineer, to pursue a career in aeronautical engineering. He acquired a PhD from the Universidad Politecnica[BL1] de Madrid in 1998 before receiving a Master of Business (MBA) from both IE Business School in Spain in 2003 and courses at Cambridge University in 2009. More recently in 2020 he was awarded ThePowerMBA, a business programme created by successful entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Ibrahim joined Teruel Airport in eastern Spain in 2012. With a single, long runway, ramp space and a small terminal, Teruel isn’t your average airport. Home to a grid pattern of taxiways, it’s designed for long-term aircraft storage. Most people would never know this is home to the largest aircraft storage area in Europe.
While COVID-19 has had a significant impact on global aviation operations, Ibrahim reveals that he is starting to see signs of recovery.
“In the initial phase of the pandemic around 95% of aircraft were grounded, but that figure is slowly decreasing as operations start to rebound.”
As an industrial aeronautical hub, Teruel Airport was at 75% of its capacity in May. Among the aircraft parked up at the airport there are 100 wide-body aircraft.
“Even before COVID-19 we were planning on expanding our storage facility by 200 hectares to accommodate parking for up to 350 wide-bodied aircraft over the next three years.” COVID-19 has understandably had an impact on day-to-day operations in terms of working practices at the airport. “The safety and wellbeing of customers and staff is an essential element of our operations,” he says. “We have increased the cleaning and disinfection practices throughout the airport and staff are advised to wear face masks and gloves, as well as adhere to social distancing guidelines. Wherever possible we’re hosting video conferences rather than meeting in person. We use posters and tape to mark out 2 metre distances to ensure we can adhere to social distancing guidelines. Our restaurant is currently closed, and staff are advised to eat at separate tables to avoid the risk of transmission,” continues Ibrahim.
Air bp has continued providing fuel and services throughout the pandemic.
“Our objective right from the outset was to keep Teruel open and operational and to offer affordable aircraft parking and maintenance services,” says Ibrahim. “By offering safe, reliable fuelling services Air bp has played an integral role in us being able to achieve that,” he adds. Having collaborated with Air bp for more than five years at the airport, Ibrahim says “Air bp is an essential stakeholder providing a key service for all our customers – both general aviation and commercial airlines.”
Looking beyond COVID-19 the airport has ambitious plans to invest in and improve its infrastructure and facilities.
“We’re planning a €30 million investment over the next two years. This will include a new hangar with the ability to accommodate aircraft as large as the A350, as well as a hangar to accommodate two A380s and three hangars for executive aviation aircraft. We are also planning on expanding the parking platform and installing a photovoltaic plant from which energy will be converted to use on site.”
With the ability to offer extensive maintenance, repair and operation (MRO) services, Ibrahim highlights that since opening to air traffic just eight years ago, Teruel has dismantled more than 40 aircraft and offered simultaneous long-term parking to 100 aircraft.
“The airport employs more than 250 staff. It is a lifeline for the local community helping to boost economic growth in an area that suffers from considerable depopulation.”
The airport is also immersed in a European project, Horizon 2020, to improve the environment by reducing the use of materials that must be incinerated or taken to landfills. The team at Teruel is introducing biodegradable materials to replace thermosetting composite polymers that are used to make aircraft.
“The airport brings its knowledge of the aeronautical sector for the improvement of the recovery and recycling of composite materials,” says Ibrahim. “It’s all part of Teruel’s commitment to the industrial revival of the aeronautical and air transport sectors. It’s also why the airport has opted for renewable energy and systems that allow it to achieve the circular economy and optimise recycling in all its phases.”
While Ibrahim is concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on the aviation sector, he is confident it will rebound in the coming months.
“Aviation is a such an important industry that supports global economies by facilitating trade and transport. As for Teruel, we will continue to offer the highest quality service to our customers and develop strategies that allow us to provide rapid responses to our clients and the new challenges arising in the aviation sector.”
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