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A Will Made of Steel and An Aircraft Made in Pakistan


“That, my friend, is the very first airplane made in Pakistan by a certified, private aircraft manufacturer,” proudly stated my host pointing in the direction of the aircraft hanger behind me.

As I turned around with anticipation and saw an all composite two seat, three propeller aircraft, gleaming in the sunlight coming in through the hanger vents, a feeling of pride overwhelmed me. It was immediately followed by profound respect for my host entrepreneur and his long and inspiring journey from a dream to its realization parked right in front of me in that hanger.

Pakistan's first privately manufactured aircraft by Scaled Aviation

Pakistan’s first certified aircraft manufactured in the private sector by Scaled Aviation Industries

My host was Faisal Naveed Asif, CEO of Scaled Aviation Industries, whom I had met on the judges’ panel at a business plan competition in a local university just a few weeks ago. Before the event, when Faisal introduced himself as the CEO of the only private-sector, certified, aircraft manufacturer in the whole of Middle East and South Asia, I was immediately impressed and decided that I must know and tell this man’s story which is guaranteed to be inspirational for seasoned and budding entrepreneurs alike. I asked Faisal if I could come and visit his facilities and a couple weeks later he called and we agreed to meet at Scaled Aviation’s Walton Airport Royal Hanger.

Faisal is a soft spoken and very down to earth individual. But underneath that modesty, he hides a brilliant mind trained by years of working with the defense sector, especially the Air Force and excellent academic credentials. When giving me an overview of some of the innovative aspects of his manufacturing process, his eyes lit up like those of a father telling the story of his child’s achievement. I could tell that this man was truly proud of all the ingenuity around him, most of it, a product of his own brilliance.

Faisal Naveed Asif

Faisal Naveed Asif, CEO of Scaled Aviation Industries

Faisal’s journey started back in 2001 when he announced to his family that he is going to quit his work in the defense sector and develop aircrafts in Pakistan. The initial reactions were not very encouraging. He recalls that one of his uncles quipped that he couldn’t produce a stable, four-legged chair in his furniture factory, let alone build an airplane. He also remembers his friends speculating that he has gone mad.

There is one particular incident, that Faisal recounts as what made him absolutely determined to build an aircraft. Faisal is a burly fellow and the very next morning, after announcing to his family that he will be building a company that manufactures aircrafts in Pakistan the night before, he was coming down the flight of stairs for breakfast when the folks at the table jokingly remarked, “Look, here comes the aircraft.” That was the moment, Faisal told me, that he made up his mind that he will prove everyone wrong and realize his dream at any cost.

One of the first things Faisal realized after embarking upon this journey was that it’s littered with clearance requirements from numerous departments even before he could file for the formation of a company with the stated objectives of manufacturing an aircraft. The bureaucracy, the red tape, the security clearances, the No Objection Certificates (NOCs), the wild goose chases between departments and ministries; none of that deterred Faisal.

The man, with the will of steel, persevered and managed to kick off his manufacturing operations in 2006. After about six years of bootstrapping the operations with his own capital and some debt financing, Faisal managed to produce the first air craft in 2012 that was ready for test flights. More importantly, his factory gained the capability of producing dozens of planes of varying capacities every year, making it a potentially viable business. The plane would cost less than many of the high end cars we see on the roads and it would be more fuel efficient than a standard four door sedan!

Along the way though, Faisal had to make some compromises because two of the most sensitive parts of the aircraft – the engine and the instrument panel – could not be built in Pakistan because of very stringent laws, lack of economically viable manufacturing facilities and an absent partner ecosystem. He managed to import those parts, but after and among others, clearances from the US Department of State pursuant to Pakistan signing off on the Kerry-Lugar bill. That was a real shocker for me.

Once the plane was ready, unbeknownst to Faisal, that opened another Pandora’s Box of requisite clearances before he could even fly, and more importantly sell the new aircrafts. He thinks that earlier, he may have gotten the required clearances with people thinking that he will never be able to actually build a plane. After he proved everyone wrong, all the agencies wanted to revisit what they had previously approved because of Faisal’s unyielding persistence.

He once again prevailed and obtained the necessary permissions for his aircraft to start logging airtime. Although this whole experience of getting run-arounds from the government departments and various agencies has left him bitter, he always managed to sneak in a satisfactory smile on his face when recalling his horror stories with the bureaucratic red tape. He proudly tells the story of when he turned down the offer by an Arab prince to come and build his factory in the Middle East. He was offered anything he would want along with state citizenship, but he refused and chose to realize his dream in Pakistan.

The day I met Faisal, he had scheduled a flight for his aircraft and was waiting for his pilot buddy to arrive. When he did and readied the plane, I was offered a ride in it. Multiple thoughts crossed my mind before I responded to that offer. At first, I hesitated, thinking this is the first of its kind airplane, the very first off the factory floor. I am a software engineer by training and know that it’s usual to put software with known bugs into production in order to meet project constraints.

“What if this plane had bugs,” I asked myself? “What if it went up and never came down,” I thought? But then I was reminded of Faisal’s meticulous planning, his entrepreneurial zeal and determination to build a first class flying machine. “This man wouldn’t take the slightest chance and won’t let anything shatter his dream,” a voice inside me reassured.

It was just that; a moment’s hesitation, and then I said yes. As I flew over Lahore in Faisal’s two seat Storm Rally aircraft, the exhilarating feeling of flying in Pakistan’s first privately manufactured aircraft remained in the backdrop and I couldn’t help but stay in awe of Faisal’s spirit and feel proud to be associated with him by virtue of being a fellow Pakistani.

So there, muffled among the many screaming stories in the media about injustice, intolerance, terrorism, corruption, energy crisis and what not, breathe the whispers of ingenuity, inventiveness and excellence. The untold story of a shy entrepreneur from Quetta who dared to dream big, persevered and fought all odds stacked against him, and built Pakistan’s very own, privately manufactured aircraft!

I flew in it, and it was amazing!

Khurram Zafar (19 Posts)

Executive Director, LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship | ex-CIO at Lahore Stock Exchange | Senior Policy Adviser, Government of Punjab | Visiting Faculty, Entrepreneurship, Graduate School of Computer Science, Information Technology University of Punjab | Board Member, Plan9 Technology Incubator | Entrepreneur | Tech & Agri Investor | Poker Player | Poet | Magician | Dad of three | Follow me on Twitter by clicking here!


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Comments

  1. Farhan Mirza says:

    is he commercially selling it now as well or not yet?

    1. Khaled says:

      yes, the first order is ready and we are taking orders now. Reply by the test pilot of this aircraft.

      1. Maa Shaa ALLAH (y) 🙂

  2. If I am not mistaken, he already has back orders, but there is some red tape involved before they could start selling them.

    1. Khaled says:

      No glitch now. You can place orders now. There are 19 designs from two seat up to ten seater. Visit site of Scaled Aviation.

  3. Tariq O. Rehman says:

    Thank you Khurram, for bringing a positive news to us amid all the negatives. Why is it that we have nit heard of this in the Pakistani media?

    1. You will be hearing about it in the media soon 😉

  4. Shadab says:

    I can assure you this guy can write volumes of stories he must have encountered when visiting government offices for acquiring NOCs… They do nothing themselves, and don’t let anyone else do as well.

  5. Saqib Chaudhry says:

    “What if it went up and never came down,” – My friend an aircraft will surely come down !!!

    1. The ones that crashed into the world trade center did not. But I think you know what I mean, in one piece, that is 🙂

      1. Saqib Chaudhry says:

        So that would’nt have happened unless the guy wanted to crash it on Ghakkar Plaza… aka Pindi Trade Centre 😀

  6. Mian Muhammad Atif says:

    Masha Allah!! Kudos to Faisal Naveed Asif for the massive achievement as well as the tenacity he showed in achieving his dream. May Allah grant him success in being able to make a successful business out of it and may this bring glory and pride to Pakistan. Ameen.

    P.S: Khurram Zafar, thanks for sharing. You really have uncovered a gem.

  7. Abumuslim says:

    Thank you! :’)

  8. homi says:

    AOA, Great Effort but please note that this aircraft is a “kit plane”
    (kindly correct me if this is a different design than “STORM RALLY” aircraft designed by European STORM AIRCRAFT Group )
    The Design falls in light sport aircraft category and Kit Construction means that Design, Materials,parts and detailed manufacturing instructions can be obtained from the actual designer and its recommended vendors and you have to actually assemble the aircraft as per given instructions.

    Many kit planes have already been manufactured and flown in Pakistan(a few are still operational),though no Pakistani Aircraft design have been approved as of today.

    Although mass assembling of these kit aircrafts in our country poses many question in context of aviation safety and security standards observed worldwide, still it is a start and i am hopeful that our aviation industry and regulations will evolve exponentially.

    Btw if you are interested in technical specs. and Design/Fabrication Details of Storm Rally aircraft,here is the link

    http://www.stormaircraft.com/new-page-3.htm

    Happy Flying 🙂

    1. Respected Sir, You are absolutely right in a few things listed above in your post. Yes, the aircraft is also sold as a kit plane and if you import it, you can build it using our builder assistance program. This is referred to as building an aircraft. After that you assemble a kit you are normally given an AP-Z** registration and that aircraft gets qualified as an experimental aircraft. It is then issued with a ‘Permit to Fly’ if everything was put together right . In this case the aircraft is built by the owner of the aircraft and he has to build more than 50% of the aircraft. This is to make sure that he knows about the aircraft inside out before he attempts to get it registered and use it for operations. The owner himself would be responsible for its maintenance. Besides there are stringent restrictions on its operations. Yes, many of such aircraft have been made in Pakistan before Scaled started off. There are many names popular for their building abilities such as Qazi brothers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

      Normal restrictions on these experimental aircraft are:
      1. the aircraft can only be used for recreation where cross country flights need special permission from government depending on the category;
      2. Aircraft cannot carry passengers, cannot be used for hire, people in the aircraft need to be over 18 years of age for Sport or Recreational ride only;
      3. The aircraft can only be used for conversion flight training for the owner only;

      Now cames the second type, the manufactured ones. Its not a kit aircraft first of all. All parts are manufactured under quality control using the design and are inspected by the regulatory authorities involved. The aircraft are manufactured under quality control of the factory. Then it is tested by a rated test pilot and certified to be in a safe condition for operations. After this the aircraft is taken through a detailed scrutiny of the regulatory authorities involved. The customer gets the aircraft as a ready-to-fly machine and it is registered with AP-*** registration as it carries an airworthiness certificate issued by the regulatory authority (the same category that your PIA, airblue and shaheen aircraft are registered in and operated).but then the aircraft can be used without any restrictions. Normally private operations can be conducted where cross country flights are allowed without any special permission. you can also use it for sport / recreation operations where cross country flights are allowed. You are free to carry passengers without age limit. You can use it for flight training of pilots where they can earn Private Pilot License (PPL), Commercial Pilot License (CPL) and ATPL also known as a Transport pilot license. These license holders after the training can be hired by airlines. One can even use the aircraft for glider towing where the gliders weight is not more then the aircraft’s maximum weight.

      BUT the organization manufacturing aircraft has to be a certified “Aircraft Manufacturing organization” from the aviation authority. Has to carry Design Organization approvals / production approvals / Quality Approvals and a proper setup for quality control, design control, manufacturing control and the list goes on and on… people working there have to be authorized and with extreme experience. they also need to be nominated and authorized by the Authority.

      :: for information only :: the legal / legislative infrastructure is already in place with Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan which is Internationally accepted cause of our ICAO membership.

      I hope I have cleared the difference. If you have any more questions/ comments please feel free to post and I shall answer.

    2. Khalid says:

      Let me clarify your assumptions. There is a big difference between kit assembled and manufactured aircraft. Firstly, the design and materials are not given by the mnaufacturer incase of a kit. Only the assembled parts are provided to be put togather as per the accompanying instructions. These instructions never carry design or design data and are specific to part assmbley only.

      Scaled aviation has the designs because of their Joint Venture and exclusivity of production and sales in the Middle East and the area’s adjoining the sub-continent. My comments are coming from my first hand knowledge and observation during the manufacturing of this aircraft as I was interested in knowing what all steps are being taken during its production as I had to do the flight tests of the same. This was for my own comfort level. I have seen minor components being manufactured and fitted on the aircraft. There was a deletion of about 20% that is 20% plus components were fabricated in Pakistan. Unlike kit assembling, each work order was supervised by CAA Licensed Engineers and then subsequently the quality of the workmanship was counterchecked by CAA inspectors and ratified. Thus the difference between kit assembly and aircraft manufacturing is very evident during the production process.

      For your kind information Storm group is a small subsidiary of ATR. Scaled Aviation carries a Joint Venture with ATR Europe.

      Air Commodore (R) Khaled Cheema

  9. Majid Ur Rehman says:

    I am happy about Faisal Naveed Khan but to be honest on top of everything I am happy about state of civil aviation in Pakistan. This information has made my day:
    “For information only :: the legal / legislative infrastructure is already in place with Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan which is Internationally accepted cause of our ICAO membership.”
    Somebody rightly said that from constitution of Pakistan to the rights of a baby born we have perfect laws here in Pakistan. We only lack implementation or a will to implementation.

  10. Muhammad Riaz Naeem says:

    Very good effort and well done. Effort may be made to cover it in Pakistani print and electronic media, so that interested parties can buy the aircraft and the venture can become economically viable and self sustaining business venture. Wish Faisal Naveed Asif all the best.

  11. Faiz Shah says:

    Delighted to see Naveed Sb’s proud achievement showcased by Khurram Sb. Even more so, because this is a “regular” plane not a kit. Here’s hoping permissions to sell will soon come through. All power to Scaled Aviation!

    1. Sir, as of today, We now have all permissions to start commercial sale, in fact the first delivery is planned for next month.

  12. Suhail Qadeer says:

    Love the article. Yes Pakistanis can do anything, they put their minds to. Any plans for commercial production?

    1. Sir, the commercial sale and production has started 🙂 we have gotten our last permission as of today.

  13. Khalid Tamton says:

    Great efforts indeed & A Job Very Well Done.
    ACdr Khaled Cheema is very meticulous person and pilot.
    I sincerely wish all the success to this venture.
    Wishing safe Takeoffs and Happy Landings.

  14. shahzda says:

    Excellent, superb, effort—Well done Sir,God be with you-

  15. Imran Ali says:

    This is a beautiful aircraft and first of its type I am seeing in Pakistan. I have few questions: How much does this cost? Who is the owner of this? And when it is going to be delivered to him/her?

    1. Sir, we take client confidentiality very seriously so I apologize for not giving out the name. It will be delivered to him by the end of next month, if the due payments are received.

    2. Sir, as far as the price is concerned it entirely depends on the needs and requirements of my customer. Every aircraft is customized to the requirements therefore, I suggest that you should find some time, visit us and surely we can help you with respect to your need.

  16. Muhammad Ali says:

    I cant explain his professionalism with words……………..
    m so prud of this that we have a gr8 professional like Dr. Fasil Asif in our Aviation field in Pakistan in which we are always lacked off..
    I have learned lot n lot ov thing from him . Real Heros dont need cameras to focus.
    my pray is this that every Aircraft Build by his professional hands FLY ALL OVER THE WORLD…

    Thanks and regards,

    Muhammad Ali,
    XYZ

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