Bahrain in Aviation- History & Prospects

With today’s great advancement in technology and infrastructure in the aviation sector, one must understand the progression and development of the sector to appreciate the advancements even more. It is important to understand the history of aviation in Bahrain as a pioneer in the aviation sector in the Arabian Gulf region. Bahrain’s important and strategic location aided in bridging the distance between the United Kingdom and its sphere of influence in Asia, the Far East and Australia.

The most important event that put Bahrain on the map of aviation was the landing of a British airplane headed to India in 1918 in Bahrain as a stopover, to deliver British mail to India and then to Australia. The Ministry of Transportation, Communications and Postal Administration in the United Kingdom issued a postage stamp commemorating that trip as a token of appreciation to Bahrain. From then on, Bahrain was part of the main route of many British plane trips whether for the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom, mail, or commercial flights.

Bahrain saw the great opportunity and advantage of being the hub of aviation in the Arabian Gulf region, and by the 1930s had developed two airfields in Manama and Muharraq, as well as facilities to adapt for flying boats.  Bahrain constantly attempted to catalyze the development of the aviation sector throughout history until today in line with Bahrain’s Vision 2030.  The ambitious aviation plan foreseen by the country’s leadership continued to flourish and prosper, leading to the establishment of Bahrain’s National Space Science Agency in 2014 and the expansion of Bahrain’s International Airport, and strengthening Bahrain’s position as a regional hub linking many destinations around the world, extending Bahrain’s aviation trajectory to aerospace marked by the launch of the Bahraini satellite “First Light” in December 2021.

This conference aims to present an overview of Bahrain’s history in aviation and demonstrate the roles of entities such as the Bahrain Airport Company (BAC), Bahrain Airport Services Company (BAS), The Royal Bahrain Air Force (RBAF), Bahrain International Airport, Gulf Air, BAFCO and BJFCO, including speakers with firsthand experiences in Bahrain’s aviation knowledge; in developing this vital sector in the Kingdom and prospects in this field.  

Time Session
09.00 09.30 Registration & Refreshments
09.30 10.00 Welcome Remarks & Keynote

  • HE Dr. Sh. Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa

Chairman, Derasat

  • H.E. Mohammed bin Thamer Al-Kaabi

Minister/ Transport & Telecommunications

10.00 11.00 Session 1: The History of Aviation in the Kingdom of Bahrain

  • Yusuf Salahudeen


An intro into the history of aviation in the Kingdom of Bahrain

  • Dr. Hamad Ebrahim Al-Abdulla

Executive Director, Derasat

Britain’s Imperial Airways and the beginnings of civil aviation in Bahrain

  • Ebtesam Mohamed AlShamlan

Assistant Undersecretary, Ministry of Transportation & Telecommunications

The role of civil aviation in institutionalizing air navigation in the Kingdom of Bahrain

11.00 11.30  Coffee Break
11:30 12:30 Session 2: Challenges and Milestones in the Transformation of the Aviation Sector

  • Mohamed Yousif Al Binfalah
CEO, Bahrain Airport Company
The evolving nature of aviation infrastructure and systems
  • Captain Waleed Abdulhameed AlAlawi

Deputy CEO, Gulf Air

The first airline in the Middle East to test the IATA Travel Pass

    • Eng. Mohammed Khalil Ahmed

    CEO, Bahrain Airport Services

    Challenges and successes in aviation and airport management

    12:30-13:30 Session 3: Prospects: Aviation to Aerospace

    • Leena Ahmed Alkooheji

    Chief, Airport & Air Navigation Audit, Ministry of Transportation & Telecommunications

    Regional aviation safety plans towards sustainable aviation industry

    • Eng. Ali Al Mahmood

    Senior Space Engineer, National Space Science Agency

    The Major National Projects in the Space Sector

    • Eng. Amina Albalooshi

    Senior Space Engineer, National Space Science Agency

    The Kingdom of Bahrain’s Journey in Establishing The National Space Science Agency

    13:30-14:00 Closing Remarks

    H.E. Dr. Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa

    Chairman, Bahrain Centre for Strategic, International and Energy Studies (Derasat)

    Dr. Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Bahrain Centre for Strategic, International and Energy Studies (Derasat). Shaikh Abdullah also holds the post of Deputy Secretary General of the Supreme Defense Council, in addition to serving as Undersecretary for International Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain, a post he has held since August 2015. Previously Shaikh Abdulla held the post of Director General for External Communications (2014) at the Information Affairs Authority, during which he played a pivotal role in drawing up and implementing a strategy for strengthening the country’s national communications and public engagement. Shaikh Abdulla was awarded a PhD in International Relations and Diplomacy from the École des Hautes Études Internationales, France. He earned a Master of Law (LLM) from Queen Mary College, University of London, UK, focusing on negotiation and mediation. He also holds a Bachelor of Law (LLB) from the Applied Science University, Jordan.

    H.E. Mohamed bin Thamir AlKaabi

    Minister of Transportation and Telecommunications

    HE Mohamed bin Thamer Al Kaabi was appointed as Minister of Transportation and Telecommunications in June 2022. He is responsible for regulating, developing and promoting the Transportation and Telecommunications sector in the Kingdom of Bahrain, as well as the postal services.

    Prior to his appointment as Minister of Transportation and Telecommunications, Mohamed served as the Undersecretary of Civil Aviation Affairs from 2016 until 2022 and held several senior executive positions at Bahrain Airport Company.

    Mohamed has over 40 years experience in the aviation industry and holds a Masters degree in Business Administration from the University of Glamorgan, UK.

    He is currently a board member of the following organisations:

    • Chairman of National Space Science Agency (NSSA)
    • Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company (Mumtalakat)

    Yousuf Salahuddin Ebrahim Salahuddin

    Mr. Yousuf Salahuddin Ebrahim Salahuddin is a businessman, researcher, and writer whose name is associated with aviation, history and trade. He has contributed to philanthropy and is an active member of some committees and associations. He was former chairman of Commercial Market Committee of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce. and Industries – 29th session. He is currently serving as Vice Chairman of Bahrain China Friendship Society, Board Member of Bahrain Bosnia Society, Member of Bahrain History & Archaeology Society, Board Member of ASEAN Bahrain Council and member of GCC Society of History & Archaeology, Member of Co-ordinating counsel Capital Governorate, Board Member of Shaikha Hessa School, Board Member of Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industries – 30th session.

    He was born in Manama on February 12, 1951, studied in Bahrain schools, graduated from the Manama Secondary School, continued his higher studies in Egypt and Cyprus, graduated as a commercial pilot and became the first Bahraini pilot to receive the FAA Commercial Aviation Certificate. He established own business in trading of building materials and properties in 1972, and celebrated, 50th anniversary of his business life in July 2022. He has great interest in local, regional and international events and writes articles in Arabic and English local newspapers.

    Dr. Hamad Ebrahim Al-Abdulla

    Executive Director, Bahrain Center for Strategic, International & Energy Studies (Derasat)

    Dr. Hamad Al-Abdulla was appointed Executive Director of the Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies (Derasat) as of October 2020. Previously he was an Assistant Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at the Social Sciences Department, College of Arts, University of Bahrain.  Prior to this he worked as a Media Specialist at the General Secretariat for the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Over the years, he has published a number of works, including “Ettore Muti: The Legend of Fascist Italy,” (2010); “Samuel Zwemer: The Encounter of Christianity with Islam,” (2011); “Charles Belgrave under the shades of Siwa Oasis,” (2012); “Bahrain’s English Newspapers: an Illustrated History,” (2014) and “Bahrain’s Sovereignty in the Qatar Peninsula and Britain’s Stance (1935-1949),” in the Annal of the Centre for Bahrain Studies at the University of Bahrain. Dr. Hamad has participated as a speaker in a number of conferences and published academic papers and research including a paper titled, “The Qatari Military Aggression against Al-Zubarah in 1937” in a Derasat conference (2018) on, “Al-Khalifa Rule in the Qatar Peninsula: History and Sovereignty.” Dr. Abdulla received his B.Sc. and MA in Mass Communication and Ph.D. in History from the University of East Anglia in the UK in 2016.

    Ebtesam Mohamed AlShamlan

    Assistant Undersecretary, Ministry of Transportation & Telecommunications

    Ebtesam Mohammed Al-Shamlan is the Assistant Undersecretary for Air Transport and Aviation Security and Safety at the Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications in the Kingdom of Bahrain since June 2020. She previously held the following positions: Director of Air Transport for 12 years; Head of Permits, Schedules, and Studies at the Civil Aviation Authority for 15 years; and Head of the Air Transport Committee at the General Secretariat for Gulf Cooperation Countries for around 8 years. Aviation Business magazine named her among the top 10 leading women in the sector. She received a Cabinet award in October 2019 for best governmental practices for her role in developing Al-Nawras flight permit system, which received a second award from the UN-WSIS in 2021. She headed the Environment Protection Committee in Bahraini Civil Aviation for 3 years, in which she helped deliver Bahrain’s plan to curb emissions and sustain growth in the aviation and air transport sector. In 2019, Mrs. Al-Shamlan headed the way-finding signage committee for the new terminal project in the Bahrain International Airport. She regularly heads Bahrain’s delegation in general and bilateral consultations and ICAN events. She holds an MBA with honors from the University of Bahrain in 2000, and in the same year earned an Industrial Diploma in Air Transport from IATA in Geneva.

    Mohamed Yousif Al Binfalah

    Chief Executive Officer of Bahrain Airport Company WLL (BAC)

    Mohamed Al-Binfalah is the Chief Executive Officer of Bahrain Airport Company WLL (BAC) since 2012. The company is responsible for managing, operating and developing Bahrain International Airport since 2010. Mr. Al-Binfalah is driven by a clear vision to continuously position Bahrain International Airport as an efficient and friendly regional hub. He worked closely with the Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications since 2014 to lead the team to deliver the $1.1bn Bahrain International Airport Modernization Program with the aim of enhancing the airport’s infrastructure and sustaining the growth of Bahrain’s aviation sector in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

    Mohamed is also Chairman of BAC Jet Fuel Company WLL, developer of the airport’s aviation fueling depot and associated infrastructure, and the Chairman of Hala Bahrain Hospitality SPC, a passenger services subsidiary of BAC. He was recently appointed as Board Member on the Airport Council International (ACI) World Governing Board (WGB) besides holding a position as Board Member on the ACI Asia-Pacific Regional Board. He also serves on the ACI World Audit Committee. He is also the founder and current Chairman of the Bahrain Green Building Council. He holds an MBA and a BSc. In Mechanical Engineering.

    Captain Waleed Abdulhameed AlAlawi

    CEO, Gulf Air

    Cpt. Waleed Al-Alawi is Chief Executive Officer of Gulf Air Company – the Kingdom of Bahrain’s national carrier, and a 40-year veteran of aviation, a sector within which his young aspirations were fulfilled. He trained as a captain in the company he now heads, balancing the operations of the airline during this critical period in the history of aviation.

    Cpt. Waleed has 16,000 global flight hours under his belt, in different types of aircraft, besides a wealth of experience in the commercial and administrative elements of running the organization. He has worked closely with government entities in Bahrain and abroad, while leading a large-scale dynamic organization with a focus on its human capital, managing business strategies, and revenue generation; whilst keeping costs low and maintaining a robust relationship with key partners.

    Eng. Mohammed Khalil Ahmed

    CEO, Bahrain Airport Services

    Mr. Mohamed Khalil has an experience of over twenty years in various disciplines spanning across various sectors including; aviation and airport strategic management, commercial negotiation and management, mergers and acquisitions, strategic planning, revenue creation and diversification, real estate development, design management and project, construction, and contract management.

    Prior to joining BAS as a CEO, Mr. Mohamed held the position of Chief Business Development Officer at Gulf Air Group Holding for more than three years where he was responsible for further expanding the Group’s reach and portfolio, leveraging synergies between the Group’s subsidiaries, and actively participating in the formulation of a holistic strategy for the group. Prior to that, Mr. Mohamed held the position of Chief Commercial Officer at Bahrain Airport Company for up to five years.

    With his extensive experience in the aviation sector, Mr. Mohamed has always been closed to BAS since April 2018. Mr. Mohamed was a Board Member of BAS, he chaired the Audit Committee and served in the Numeration, Remuneration & Corporate Governance Committee. He was previously a board member at Bahrain Duty Free Company and SSP Bahrain W.L.L

    Leena Ahmed Alkooheji

    Chief, Airport & Air Navigation Audit, Ministry of Transportation & Telecommunications

    Mrs. Leena Al-Kooheji is an airport and air navigation auditor with 18 years of experience in air navigation and air traffic control, with aerodrome safety oversight experience. She progressed from an Air Traffic Control Assistant to Air Traffic Control Officer from 2003 and has obtained all 3 licences as ATCO (Aerodrome, Approach and Area). She was appointed as a member of the Backup Runway Project as the Tower Air Traffic Control representative. She helped develop local procedures for a new aerodrome in the Kingdom to host the Bahrain International Air Show, popularly known as Sakhir Air base, and has subsequently became an integral member of the air show organising team 2009-2016. Since 2016, Mrs. Al-Kooheji has been involved in auditing, inspection and certifying (oversight) of the Bahrain International Airport, Air Navigation Directorate, Metrology Directorate and Gulf Aviation Academy. Moreover, she also carries out quality audit over other BCAA directorates on a planned schedule.

    She holds a MSc in Computer Science & IT, with a focus on aligning ATC Radar systems with international standards and best practices, and a Bachelor of Computer Science from Bahrain University. She began her career as a computer science teacher, where she developed 3 different guidelines on the type of materials to be taught to children, housewives and military staff.

    Eng. Ali Al Mahmood

    Senior Space Engineer, National Space Science Agency

    Ali Al Mahmood is a master’s degree graduate in Engineering Systems and Management with a mechanical engineering background. His recent research study is to increase the throughput of CubeSats, thus, increasing the information exchange to the ground station without any additional hardware or customized software. Eng. Ali is a senior space engineer in the Bahrain Space Team of the National Space Science Agency and started his career in 2019 by contributing to developing two CubeSats: DhabiSat and Light-1 which were launched in 2021. His main contribution throughout the two years of study included working with the following teams: Onboard Computer, Communication, and Risk Management, as part of the Bahrain Space Team and Khalifa University Space Team. The expertise gained throughout the development of the two CubeSats are carried over to the development of the current Bahraini CubeSat, in which innovative technologies will be developed in-house to be tested in space.

    Eng. Amina Albalooshi

    Senior Space Engineer, National Space Science Agency

    A senior space engineer in the National Space Science Agency (NSSA) – Kingdom of Bahrain, with a master’s degree in Engineering Systems and Management with Space concentration, and bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering. Her recent research is studying the different points of failures that occur in the I2C bus protocol and producing techniques to prevent, eliminate or mitigate them, thus, increasing the I2C bus reliability in CubeSat missions.

    Eng. Amina is a senior space engineer of the Bahrain Space Team and contributed to the development of DhabiSat and Light-1 CubeSats. Her area of expertise includes CubeSat development, Risk Management, Onboard computer development and Failure Detection Isolation and Recovery of CubeSats. That expertise is carried over in the development of the Bahraini CubeSat, such that new innovative technologies will be developed and tested in space.

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