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Business Air News Bulletin
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Twinjet's Keeble looks back over thirty highly eventful years
Twinjet Aviation has marked the 30th anniversary of its establishment in 1982 by chairman John Keeble and original co-founder Paula Downes at Luton airport, where the company maintains a permanent base and operations department to this day.

Twinjet Aviation has marked the 30th anniversary of its establishment in 1982 by chairman John Keeble and original co-founder Paula Downes at Luton airport, where the company maintains a permanent base and operations department to this day. The business originally began as an international aircraft brokerage, but has developed into aircraft management and subsequently aircraft operations with the opening of a dedicated operations department in 1999.

Over the years, Twinjet has achieved a number of aviation firsts in the UK. In 1999, it was issued with a public transport AOC and a type A operating licence by the UK CAA, the only UK-based private jet operator to be awarded this licence, certifying the company to the same operating standards as commercial airlines. Twinjet was also the first UK operator of the Airbus A319 type and currently has an ACJ and a Challenger 604 under full aircraft management.

In 2008, Twinjet Aircraft established its first overseas base in Dubai. Established to serve existing clients in the Middle East region, it enabled the company to extend aircraft sales and management services into Asia, the former Soviet Union and the Far East.

Keeble's recollections are vivid: "When we launched Twinjet, we began business with one telephone and one aircraft to sell. We are now an international and multilingual team of aviation professionals with offices around the world.

"In 1982, the market for corporate jets was quite well established in both Europe and North America and was beginning to take off in the Middle East and Africa. However, the business jets available were mostly what we now call mid-size – largely the Falcon 20 and HS125.

"Public perception does seem to have changed from the 80s where most owners tried to hide ownership. I think that fractional ownership schemes have helped with image problems, although there are several major British household names that do not publicise ownership – especially in the supermarket arena!

"The most significant change to the brokerage world was the intro-duction of the internet. No longer could dealers control the market; anyone can type in 'Gulfstream 550 for sale' and obtain ten hits!

"My original partner, an ex Marines F4 Phantom pilot, Richard C Jones, summed up the early days of brokerage with the phrase: 'John, we have to create and maintain an air of ambiguity.' No longer possible with internet coverage.

"I have met and made friends with many characters during the past 30 years, both as professional brokers and customers. One of my first clients was a Nigerian chief who insisted on acquiring a Hawker 125-1B. I tried to advise him that for his extended family, this would not do the job. First flight from Luton, a truck appeared with the luggage – 17 trunks, a 12 feet square carpet, many baskets of catering and 11 passengers. I resold the aircraft later that month!

"A Spaniard, Carlos Fanhul, came by mistake to our office in Halcyon House, Luton, looking for Rogers Aviation, Cranfield. A cabbie dumped him and left. Together Carlos and I sold eight corporate jets to Spanish clients over the next three years.

"An Essex based painter and decorator, who made money in the North Sea oil platform business, bought a Hawker from me and insisted on painting it matt black. The cabin temperature soared when parked in the south of France such that the aerosols on board exploded. We resold that later in white.

"Finally, I delivered a beautiful Saudi-owned Boeing 727-200A to a Crown Prince, resident in Geneva. At the closing meeting, 22:00 hours in the palatial residence overlooking Lake Geneva, the financial advisor whispered to HRH to request confirmation that all the technical records were available for inspection. 'Yes, they are in the stores at the airport,' I said. 'I would like to see them here before I pay over the bank draft,' said HRH. Two hours later, 300 kilos of records, in stained wooden cases, were deposited on HRH's 18th century Persian carpet. He paid.

"I think that the scale of financial pressure is much greater today than those recessionary periods of the early 80s and mid 90s. In the early days, I could stop paying the salaries because there were only three of us. We have today, in the group, more than 40 employees with mortgages and families. So, I have to work very hard to ensure that their positions are not compromised – a huge incentive.

"To summarise, the job of the broker even in the electronic world is to be available 24/7 to take telephone calls, be you in a ski chalet, a beach or a remote African airfield; personal service sells aircraft."