Air Alliance Medflight
Air Charter Scotland
Empire Aviation Group
Tyrolean Jet Services
BAN's World GazetteerCzech Republic
This month EBAN is revisiting its Me & My Aircraft series with an analysis of the long range and large jet sector. Taking on an asset of this size can be a source of both risk and reward for operators, but in an increasingly global corporate market, executive travellers are demanding swift connections, at short notice, to every continent. We gained access to the operators who are making these connections happen every day.
Air Charter Scotland operates a Legacy 650. Ground ops director Derek Thomson says that the company has been building up to the aircraft since 2005 when it introduced a Citation 525 into the fleet. It has also operated a CJ2, a CJ3, an Excel and a Legacy 600 before settling on the current model. “We are very satisfied with the Legacy 650,” he says. “It is a great aircraft which is very capable, good on runway performance, payload, baggage capacity and very good on range. We enjoy some fantastic support from Embraer; the manufacturer understands our need to fly and is always ready to support us.
“An example of this was a recent flight from New York to Moscow. On arrival in Moscow we found we had a faulty FMS1. FMS2 was serviceable but we needed two working FMS units for the transatlantic crossing. After speaking to the Embraer contact centre in Brazil, we were serviceable by 0900 the following day, a fantastic turnaround.”
He sends aircraft to Inflite's Embraer authorised service centre at London Stansted for base maintenance, and remarks that staff there are extremely knowledgeable and thorough. He also believes the Legacy offers great value when laid against its rivals the Challenger 605, Challenger 850 and Gulfstream IV. “We have the cheapest operating costs in this class. If we were to upgrade, it would be to an aircraft capable of at least 5,000 nm range, so the types of aircraft we would look at would be the G550, Global Express or Falcon 7X. The market seems to be vibrant for the long range and large sector in Europe, Middle East and North America and shows no signs of slowing, which is great for all of the companies operating in this market.
“A lot of the aircraft we compete against, such as the Legacy 600 or Challenger 850, don't have the ability to carry the same range and payload as the Legacy 650.”
The only downside in his opinion is that the Legacy is not the quickest jet in its class.
Roderick Buijs of Exxaero in the Netherlands flies several long range and large types including a Falcon 900B, Falcon 900C and Falcon 900EX. He is extremely satisfied with his aircraft and states that their performance is 'best in class'. He is also impressed with the wingspan and cabin. Dispatch is excellent and he says they offer very good value for money. He would like to upgrade to a Global 6000 as he is seeing increased requests for the fleet in the charter market. He sees the financial impact of owning such large jets as a negative.
Laetitia Loudet is the sales manager for French operator iXAir, which is responsible for a 14-seat Global XRS. “Originally a club of light jet owners based in Paris le Bourget, iXAir has over the years developed into a business jet company,” she says. “The Global Express XRS is the most accomplished jet on the market. It is capable of flying more than 13 hours without any fuel stop. The seats can convert into six beds. Thanks to its short-field performances, the XRS can use restrictive airports.
“There are three main advantages with a Global Express XRS in comparison to other long range jets: large cabin, very long range and high speed.”
Executive Jet Management Europe (EJME) has an extensive long range fleet. James Hodson is head of charter: “In Europe alone we have a 500 strong team watching over the operation of our aircraft. Every aspect from maintenance control, flight services, flight dispatch and long range operations to catering, scheduling and ground operations is managed by our operations centre in Lisbon. Our suppliers are audited regularly by an in-house team.
“Furthermore, crew hiring standards at EJME exceed those set out by European regulations. In regulatory terms, the minimum qualification for a captain is 1,500 flying hours, while a first officer can have as few as 195 hours of experience. In contrast, our minimum standard for all pilots is 1,500 hours, and we require that all captains have at least 3,000 hours of experience.”
Many EJME customers make regular use of the long range fleet. “It is common for our light jet owners to charter long range or use their NetJets fractional products for additional lift. To date in 2015, our parent company NetJets has flown more than 50,000 flights on large cabin, long range aircraft.”
UK-based Cello Aviation's commercial executive Martine Williams told us that she is reasonably satisfied with the performance, dispatch and value of the company's Boeing 737-400, and is very satisfied with maintenance. “This is a new type for us this year, as we have always operated Avro business jet and RJ aircraft,” she says. “We hold our own Part 145 and the interior of the aircraft was recently refurbished, which has made a significant difference.”
An anonymous contributor left feedback about their Global 6000 Vision, saying that they are very satisfied with dispatch, performance and maintenance, but slightly less pleased with value. Range, space and comfort are listed as the aircraft's strongest attributes, while the cabin systems let it down slightly. “We would have preferred the Rolls Royce engine that is fitted on the G650,” they said.
Germany's DC Aviation operates several heavy jets including the Airbus ACJ319, Global XRS, Global 5000, G550, Falcon 7X and Falcon 900 DX/EX. “Long range and large aircraft types have been always part of our fleet portfolio. This segment has the highest priority for us,” remarks CEO Michael Kuhn. “The owners, the passengers and we as an operator all appreciate these types of aircraft as reliable and versatile. We have our own maintenance facilities, special tools, teams and spare parts. Support from the manufacturer also works well if needed.”
“Sometimes it is not possible to land at smaller airports,” he concludes, “but this is only a minor disadvantage.”
Andrew Hallak is the marketing director for Athenian GainJet, which maintains a fleet of Boeing 757, Boeing 737, G650, G550, G450, Global Express XRS and Challenger 604 aircraft.
The company started its operations with an executive airliner before introducing smaller jets to its operation. Today, seven aircraft in its charter fleet are either long range or large aircraft. “We are highly satisfied with the performance of our vip B757,” says Hallak.
“It has long range capabilities and a large cabin which can accommodate 62 passengers plus a bedroom. It has proved popular with many of our clients and has operated several private jet world tours for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.
“We are satisfied with the B737's performance. The only issue was its limited range. At six hours, it fell short of satisfying our customers' needs on many profitable sectors. However, now that we have installed the Long Range AG 'Quick Change' auxiliary fuel system, we can increase the range up to nine hours when needed. Alternatively, if we need to maintain the large baggage hold capacity, the tanks can be removed individually. The flexibility is ideal.”
He is highly satisfied with the performance of the G650. “As a large cabin ultra-long range business jet, it really satisfies all our customers' needs. The range is great, the space and comfort is exceptional, and the on-board features in the cockpit and cabin are top of the line. We've even set city pair records with the G650, comfortably reaching speeds of Mach 0.92. We have acquired a second G650 under management.”
The CL604 has been assigned to medevac and has an eight-hour range which is ideal for transcontinental transportation.
Hallak is pleased with the dispatch reliability of his aircraft: “The B757 is a proven product and has a good track record. For the last seven years we have operated the type and I'm happy to say it has been reliable. When flying passengers such as heads of state, dispatch reliability is crucial.
“Our G650 has been operating almost non-stop since we acquired it in late 2014. When it comes to the CL604 and its role as a medevac aircraft, reliability is one of the most important criteria for us. With almost a year under medevac operation, we have been able to rely on the Challenger.”
He is satisfied with maintenance support, and says the fact that the Boeing aircraft are very established products makes life easier. “Like the B757, the B737 has been around for many years and there are plenty of 737s operating. Parts are very accessible and there is a strong maintenance support globally.
“We've taken 15 Gulfstream deliveries and have had a lot of experience and established a good relationship with the manufacturer. Gulfstream support, specifically maintenance support, has always been the best.”
Despite the fact that the G650 is one of the highest priced business jets on the market, Hallak is of the opinion that you get great value for money with this aircraft as Globals are currently more subject to depreciation. He analyses the sector as follows: “The long range market in Europe has held steady despite the recent world economic recession and continued economic struggles in Europe. The Middle East market has held strong and seen a minor increase.
“However, the investment is becoming larger and your costs are also generally higher. It's a tricky market to navigate. When operating these aircraft, there are more issues to look out for. It has taken us years of experience and fine tuning to reach the level of service.”
Andy Green is MD and accountable manager for London Southend-based Jota Aviation, which flies a British Aerospace 146-200. “We have been operating the 146 for a little over one year,” he comments. “We originally commenced charter operations with the Beechcraft King Air series aircraft and currently also operate four B90s and a B200 series.
“Dispatch reliability on the BAe 146 has been very good and is currently trending at around 98 to 99 per cent. We have only ever incurred very minimal delays. Maintenance support is excellent as there is an abundance of spare parts available for the aircraft. Being a very successful British built aircraft there is still full manufacturer and MRO support and a large number of licensed engineers able to service the aircraft.”
He is happy that he is getting 'excellent' value for money; the low capital cost of the aircraft is said to be ideally suited for the ACMI and ad hoc charter market. Jota has recently added all business class seating and introduced first class service and catering served on china and glass.
“There are a limited number of regional jets available for one-off charters, especially that are able to lay over for up to four nights away from base,” continues Green. “We can also look after the longer term requirements of blue chip businesses, sports teams and music bands. In addition, Europe's scheduled carriers need support from time to time and the aircraft can operate sub-services in an all economy or split business class and economy configuration. The aircraft meets the steep approach requirements of airports like London City.”
MD of Air Alliance in Germany Wolfgang Krombach has just added a Challenger 604 to his fleet, and also operates a number of Learjets. He rates performance and dispatch as 'very good' and is more than satisfied with its value for money, so much so that he would like to add a second CL604 to the fleet soon. He does not see any downsides to the jet.
Gama Aviation, headquartered at Farnborough in the UK, has a variety of long range and large jets in its worldwide fleet, including the Global 5000, Global Express, Legacy 650, BBJ, ACJ, G650, G550, V, IV-SP and IV, and the Falcon 900. This was far from the case back in 1983, when the company operated a single Beech Baron. Says chief marketing officer Duncan Daines: “Being a global PLC, we see varying cycles of demand for these aircraft types. While in Europe you may have highly capable aircraft running relatively short sectors, you'll have the complete opposite in Asia, the US and the Middle East.
“We're very satisfied with the performance across the fleet. Each aircraft type has its own particular requirements, but we have the breadth of expertise within the company to deal with that. Our large fleet and charter availability allow our clients to trade up or down to mission appropriate aircraft. After all, why take a G650 out of the hangar when the journey can be made via Citation XLS or King Air if the mission is simply taking the kids to the coast for the weekend?”
Anything less than 100 per cent dispatch is unacceptable to Gama. “Having a breadth of operational support at our disposal, dispatch reliability is an area where we can control many of the factors,” adds Daines. “That said, aircraft are complex machines and they will go tech. Having a large fleet, client-focussed line support engineers, great OEM relationships and sub-charter leverage can mitigate delays and disappointments. In the US for example, we have 30 mobile units operating out of a network of coast-to-coast bases to do our best to ensure we go when we say we will.”
Gama works closely with OEMs and all parties involved in aircraft maintenance. “Our breadth and depth of engineering skill at the line, base and continued airworthiness level allows us to diagnose, treat and work on viable solutions for owners and their crews. The secret is always to manage expectations and have honest, open relationships with each party concerned. We exist to advise our clients, not serve ourselves.”
He continues: “We are seeing an increase in demand for large aircraft in all the regions in which we operate. The world economy is so interlinked now that executives may need to visit countries as geographically dispersed as Japan, Australia, Germany, US and South Africa in a relatively small time frame. The only way to do this efficiently is to fly privately.
“It is not just big business doing this. We have seen the arrival of the air cruise, the football tour and, since the arrival of the mp3 file, musicians having to tour extensively in order to drive revenue from stadium receipts. We firmly believe in the future of long range aircraft. What is more, on a multi-sector trip you have a far better chance of delivering amazing service than on a VLJ flight to Edinburgh.
“The only real disadvantage of operating large jets comes if they are the only type you have. For short hops they are not necessarily the best option. Fortunately our fleet covers a wide range,” Daines concludes.
ABS Jets in Prague flies Gulfstream and Embraer Legacy aircraft. CEO Vladimir Petak's company started with a small fleet of three aircraft, including two Citation Bravos and a Legacy. Today, after 11 years in business, it flies several Legacy 600s, 650s and Gulfstreams amid some smaller types.
“We are absolutely happy with the G550 performance and at same point we are looking forward to upgrading to the G650. It is a very good choice for our corporate customers, who often fly long haul. It provides everything they need, that is to say a comfortable and spacious cabin, suitable storage space and great range; an absolutely perfect corporate plane.
“Unfortunately, we are not fully satisfied with maintenance support. There is a lack of customer support and flexibility compared with other OEMs. Despite the fact that we have never registered major complaints, I would still like to feel more care and willingness.”
Despite these qualms, Petak still feels the aircraft offers good value for money. His colleague Jan Kralik adds: “In the market there is a lack of available aircraft for long range charters but quite a good number of aircraft for purely private long range operations. The biggest advantage we have with these long range types is that there is no need for technical stops. We can fly well above the daily flow, for example over the north Atlantic.”
Empire Aviation Group (EAG) in Dubai carries out the lion's share of its activity in the Middle East. Included in its fleet are the Gulfstream 650 and 450, Global XRS, Falcon 7X, Challenger 605 and the Legacy 600 and 650. Unlike many of our respondents, EAG did not build up to this fleet from smaller types; it operated heavy metal from the outset. Director of corporate affairs Caron Gledhill is completely satisfied with dispatch, maintenance and value, and would like to add further G650s. “Being mindful of the current market, I believe that this sector will experience steady, albeit slow growth,” Gledhill states. “We can provide non-stop flights to most global business hubs but we have to be aware that crewing a long range flight usually requires an augmented crew due to duty and flight time regulations.”
CEO of German operator FAI rent-a-jet Siegfried Axtmann has operated three Global Express since 2010. “Performance and dispatch are good, and we have an in-house MRO, so we are independent from third party suppliers,” he says.
“I am happy with the value for money. The long range and large sector is still developing in our region, and supply is not exceeding the demand in quite the same way that it is with light or midsize.”
Martin Lener, CEO of Austria's Tyrolean Jet Services, has two Globals, one G550, one G650, two ACJ319s and one ACJ318. “We entered in the ultra long range business in 2003 with our very first Global and built up over the years,” he says.
“Aside from some difficulties in the entry into service period, all of our aircraft are doing fine. The dispatch reliability on ACJs is especially good, due to the fact they are airline derivatives with a much higher number of produced aircraft compared to business jets. At this level OEMs make a lot of effort to support their customers.
“Relatively speaking, looking at the cabin size of ACJs compared to ultra long range business jets, ACJs give you more value for money.”
He would like to upgrade the entertainment systems in his aircraft and install high speed internet. He isn't experiencing great demand from Europe at the moment, but there is plenty from the Middle East and, perhaps surprisingly, from Russia. “The biggest challenge we face with these aircraft is high expense,” he adds. “In high season parking at congested airports is extremely problematic. However we are lucky that the market for long range and large business jets is stronger than that of midsize.”
Norwich, UK-based SaxonAir only added its first heavy jet a few months ago, having obtained a worldwide AOC in the first quarter of 2013 (see the June edition of EBAN for the full story). It is already experiencing 'phenomenal' demand for its G550, which it positions at London Stansted.
“As a company we have always wanted to operate a heavy jet. It has been our goal to do so and we did this by building up our knowledge and experience from smaller aircraft,” says marketing, commercial and business assistant Rebecca Spinks. “The G550 has a great range and speed and it enables SaxonAir to be more versatile but keep competitive with other heavy jets. The G550 is a class leader in its range, but it still has excellent runway performance.”
She praises the G550's 'exceptional' reliability, and is confident in carrying out missions anywhere in the world.
“Our G550 is very well supported globally. Our maintenance department always praises the ease of access to help whenever we need it. From an operating perspective, we also get our money's worth. The G550's operating costs allow competitive pricing, putting our sales team in a strong position to win tenders while also providing a good margin.”
Spinks would like to upgrade to the Elite Gulfstream interior, which enables lighting, music and other amenities to be controlled from an iPhone, along with 'larger than standard' seating.
“The market for larger aircraft worldwide we find is busy. At the moment our G550 is always flying which is a good sign. From our perspective, we cannot see any negatives. We always want aircraft to go further and faster and that's exactly what the G550 does for us.”
SaxonAir's chief pilot Ed Noel adds further insight: “We have had continued support from Gulfstream Luton which has carried out every aspect of the maintenance to a high standard and within our time parameters. Dispatch reliability stands at 100 per cent since we began operating the G550; we have never had a defect that has prevented the aircraft from dispatching.
“We routinely fly to the Far East, operating such legs as Hong Kong to London within a 13-hour flight time, which the Global 6000 would struggle to achieve. Our particular G550 allows up to 16 passengers, so even for short European legs it is capable of providing value for money. We have even taken 14 passengers to New York.”
He appreciates the large windows on the aircraft and its unique environmental system. “Rather than using recirculated air like its competitors, the G550 has a 100 per cent fresh air system so you will feel fresh after a 10-hour flight. This is regularly mentioned by our passengers. We are still looking for the 'worst thing' about this aircraft. We just can't find one.”