Gama Aviation has been awarded a Swiss AOC by FOCA. The certificate clears the way for the company’s Geneva-based team to offer third party charters out of Switzerland with its own business jets. The first Swiss-registered aircraft is a Gulfstream V, configured with 16 seats, which has moved from the operator’s managed fleet in the UK.
The Gulfstream is complemented by an eight seat Learjet 45 on Gama’s UK AOC which is already being marketed out of Switzerland. In light of the ski season which is now under way, it has been a regular visitor to Geneva. The company intends to add more aircraft to the fleet in Switzerland, complementing existing activity in Europe, Russia and the Middle East, with a focus on attracting new customers.
“We first opened the office here in Geneva in July 2012,” says captain Hamish Ross, who manages the team in Geneva. “We didn’t, for various reasons, apply for the AOC until April last year, so it has taken 10 months start to finish. In fact, we were pretty much ready in November, but the inspections were delayed until the last week of January. We did our final inspection in the last week of January, and they processed all the material and formally handed us the certificate a few weeks ago.”
Ross says that there are numerous advantages to having a Swiss AOC: “Switzerland is a wealthy country that has lots of people with aircraft to manage and charter, so it’s a good market. It is also right in the centre of Europe while being not in the EU, which for some owners is a plus point.
“It means that when people come to us and we’re looking to manage aircraft, we can say that in Europe we’ve got a choice of ‘in or out of the EU’ to suit them. It’s all part of the global package.”
He doesn’t believe the Geneva office will be drastically different to the UK one: “We operate with the same EU ops rules and EASA part ops from the end of this year, so there’s no fundamental difference that way.
“Here in Switzerland they absolutely insist on everything being done properly. There’s no cutting corners on anything, which is good.
“We now have to start work on the changing rules to EASA ops at the end of this year, so we have to get all the paperwork in by the end of April. But other than that we are looking to get more aircraft. We are talking to a few people but we haven’t got near to the stage of being able to announce it at the moment. Basically we are open for business!”
Coinciding with the award of this AOC, Gama has expanded its operations team. Rene Balatti has joined as operations assistant based in Geneva, and will work alongside operations manager Laura Malisani.
Meanwhile, the operator’s managed charter fleet has expanded with the arrival of a Hawker 800XP based at Sharjah International. The midsize jet is now available and will increase client options in the Middle East, as Gama also has a base in the UAE at Al Bateen executive airport, Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is already home to a Legacy 600 which has two separate cabin zones and room for up to 13 passengers and, like the Hawker 800XP, it is available for charter.
Gama has also received CAA approval for its UK operation to go paperless. Flight crews for its G-registered aircraft can now use iPads for their flight planning. Twelve aircraft have moved over to the EFB technology, with 22 pilots now trained for its use. The iPads are loaded with Airwatch Secure Content Locker, a library publication system that allows crews to download and manage operational flight-deck documents, together with the Jeppesen Mobile FliteDeck e-chart application to access aeronautical arrival and departure information for airports worldwide.
“The move to paperless technology will provide our crews with important, up-to-date information quickly and simply. It will also save us considerable time as we will no longer have to manually update hard copy flight manuals,” comments director of flight operations Steve Woodfine. “Weight savings are a big advantage in helping reduce fuel burn.”