Empire Aviation Group of Dubai is to be one of the first operators to fly the Falcon 8X, after it placed an order for the ultra long range jet. Says executive director Steve Hartley: “We have been a loyal supporter of Falcon for many years. Our first aircraft at Empire was a Falcon 900. We currently have three 7Xs and three Falcon 900 EX EASy. Six products in total, and we do have this 8X coming, which I think we will get either at the end of 2016 or beginning of 2017.
“We have a choice about where we are in the delivery cycle. I have always felt that the first 50 aircraft are not necessarily the best ones to get, because the early ones often have issues. But then again, the 8X and the 7X use the same technology; it is really a stretch of the 7X – it is not a clean sheet design. We might not have the same issues that the 7X had at launch, but we haven't made that call just yet.”
Hartley states that long haul makes up the majority of Middle Eastern business aviation and the dynamic of EAG's fleet has changed in response to this: at one stage it had eight Hawkers but only three remain now. Also in the fleet are Globals, Gulfstreams, Legacys and Challengers.
“Rotary has never really featured in our plans,” he continues. “As a helicopter pilot myself, I have always enjoyed them, but not for this region. I think also you have to stick to what you know. If you take on more things than you really want to, you become reasonably good at all of them but you don't specialise in any.
“If we introduce a completely new aircraft to our system, our computers have to be reprogrammed, and flight planning and maintenance schedules must be altered. So we have slowed down on having many different types of aircraft for that reason. We employ 59 pilots in total, and if you have got training happening on 30 different platforms, just managing that process is a division of its own. If you reduce the number of platforms that you are training on, and use the same facilities throughout, you make life easier for yourself.”
He plans to focus on using the company's experience of the Falcon range, and says that the 8X offers more than a simple increase in cabin volume: “It is a combination of volume and range. The range is a key driver in everybody's decision, and range is what most manufacturers are searching for. The 8X is going to add value in this way, and the technology is so proven. It has been on the 7X now since around 2009 and is very advanced.
“The advancements from Dassault have been fantastic; they are one step ahead, and have certainly served us well.”
EAG has also recently added a Global Express XRS to its fleet, the 27th managed jet on its roster.
The aircraft will be based in Nigeria and will be the seventh EAG jet in Africa. It was acquired in Europe by the operator on behalf of a private owner.
Executive director Paras Dharmecha says: “We are building our management portfolio from the UAE base because we can access the global business jet market for customers anywhere in the world, and remotely manage aircraft within and beyond the Middle East.”
The operator has also added a managed Legacy 650 in Oman. It is for an existing owner and will be managed for private use only.
Adds Dharmecha: “Oman is a relatively small business jet market and we are delighted to be managing three aircraft there. Finding and acquiring an aircraft is just the start of the ownership process and our specialist team was able to conduct the critical technical inspection of the new aircraft, which was acquired directly from Embraer. It is an important part of our asset management service.”