Prague’s Eclair Aviation has only held its AOC since June 2013 but is already carving out a promising reputation for itself, promoting the unusual P180 Avanti alongside a Gulfstream G-200. Accountable manager Radomir Sanak summarises the story so far: “A year ago we found an investor, the owner of two aircraft who was looking for a way to operate them. The aircraft were a G-200 and a Piaggio P180 and luckily we had some previous experience.”
He says the investor was not happy with the offers he had from other companies in the area for management of the aircraft, so Sanak and his team put together a plan and decided to establish their own operation. “We started in January and February 2013 to work with our CAA to get the necessary license, and in the meantime we started to operate the aircraft privately. In June we got an AOC for the P180. The G-200 is still private but is going to be on the AOC shortly.”
The aircraft still needs to be brought into line with EASA requirements. Sanak is looking to provide flexible services for the owner of the aircraft and will also bring them extra revenue by going into the charter market. “The two aircraft are performing different roles: the Piaggio is more or less flying for the charter market while the G-200 is flying for the owner. The operator is lining up other investors too,” he adds.
“We are looking for a flexible solution, and hopefully the plan next year is to bring another two aircraft into our fleet.”
The Avanti is a type rarely seen in the mainstream market, and Sanak is very impressed with it. “The Avanti is a very special aircraft. In the past I have worked a lot with Embraers including the Phenom 100 and 300. I spent some time at Opera Jet where we operated Cessna jets. So I think I am in a good position to compare those aircraft. “To be honest I was very surprised by the Piaggio, because you don’t often get a chance to see the aircraft itself in operation, its performance, its economics and its comfort. I’ve heard some negative stories about the aircraft but personally I think it is underestimated. Maybe this is because of how it looks, but if you look at it just from pure performance and the value it gives for the price, you realise that it is an incredible aircraft.”
As for the G-200, it is anticipated that this will be on the Eclair AOC shortly, and it is currently in the maintenance facility during re-registration. Sanak says he has seen a small gap in the market in the case of this and the Piaggio, and feels the P180 has already proved itself: “We started the operation in the middle of summer and since that time we have averaged 40 hours flying a month. The hardest part with Piaggio is to get the clients to the aircraft. Once you get them to it and explain everything to them, usually the reaction is ‘wow’. Everyone is always surprised.”
In a market awash with Mustangs and CJs, Sanak is particularly proud of the value for money the Piaggio offers, and also feels that super-midsize is not well represented around Prague, which is where the G-200 is expected to thrive. He foresees good local demand and also feels the strategic position Prague occupies is crucial, able to serve the area on both the east and the west.
Eclair has noticed another trend, that being the tendency of many operators to move their aircraft to different registries such as Malta or Isle of Man, and it has taken part in this trend; the G-200 registration is M-GULF. This aircraft was originally on the N register, which led to confusion for its new owner with paperwork missing. “For us the Isle of Man was the fastest solution, and I had a tremendous experience with those guys because they were able, in one month, to put the aircraft paperwork together. Of course this is only suitable for private operations, but it is a start,” continues Sanak.
Both types are considered new in Eclair’s region of operation, so there was a good deal of work to be done such as bringing pilots and technicians up to speed. Sanak says that the authorities in the Czech Republic proved immensely helpful in the end, after he had strongly considered a San Marino or Maltese switch: “Our authority is starting to work better and better, and we decided to stay here, locally, which is good in terms of handling because you are sitting right next to the authority and can communicate quite well. So at the moment there is not really a reason to move it abroad.”
Overseas expertise did however come to the fore in a recent AOG incident, where one of the aircraft was grounded due to a broken bolt in the wheel. Sanak says he enjoyed good support from Jet Aviation at Düsseldorf: “The guys had good experience of Piaggio and it is just a one hour flight from Prague, so they have provided great support in getting it operational again. This has been the very first AOG we’ve had with the aircraft so far.”
Sanak is hopeful of ‘better days’ for business aviation in 2014, but has seen an encouraging uptake around Prague: “More and more people here are seeing the advantages of business aviation. I would say there are less people willing to buy aircraft, and that’s basically how the situation is, because nowadays it’s so easy to charter aircraft. We have no problem with parts, we have no problem with the quality of the service you get. So it’s hard to convince people to buy their own aircraft.
“But this is something we are working on, to get people to use a different size of aircraft. We feel that for many clients, they could be more satisfied with multiple aircraft types. So we are looking to offer a variety of services, build the fleet, and we are already getting good feedback from the clients where we have used this formula.”