For the second consecutive year, Belgium-headquartered ASL will base its Legacy 450 at St Tropez La Mole airport during the 2017 Les Voiles regatta, which will take place between 30 September and 8 October on the French Côte d'Azur.
The 2017 Les Voiles de St Tropez will bring together, for the 19th time, traditional yachts and the most technologically advanced vessels. More than 300 boats measuring up to 50 metres will be on display each day in the bay of St Tropez to mark the end of the Mediterranean sailing season.
Safety manager Maxime Wauters is looking forward to showcasing the Legacy at the event, and tells EBAN that the aircraft has been exceptionally busy: “We haven't had a chance yet to analyse the number of flights and hours we did over the summer, but it has been busier than 2016, for sure. The previous summer, traffic was impacted by the terrorist attacks in Nice on 14 July.
“Last year when we based the Legacy 450 in St Tropez it was, and I believe still is, the largest jet able to operate commercially in and out of the airport. Only the Falcon 7X is larger, but it can only operate there with far fewer passengers and less fuel than the Legacy.”
ASL received the aircraft a year and a half ago and Wauters has been stunned by its performance.
“We were the first European commercial operator of the L450. It was serial number 003, so we basically have the first production unit that came out of the factory. When you have a new aircraft coming off the production line, which is also a brand new type designed from a blank sheet, it is not unreasonable to feel a little concerned. But in fact the reliability rate of the aircraft has been excellent, we have only experienced AOG for one or two days maximum, and even those were tiny issues that were solved quickly by Embraer.
“St Tropez is not quite as busy as it once was. They have had a few issues, including the fact that the French government wanted to remove customs clearance and thereby stop it being an entry airport. This was a problem for people coming in from certain countries, including the UK. Customs has been maintained over the summer, but this is still an ongoing issue that they will have to deal with in the future.”
Last year, the runway at St Tropez was reduced by 100m, which has prevented a lot of aircraft such as the Phenom 300 from operating there. Some of this distance – around 50m – has been recovered so the Falcon 7X is able to access the airfield once more, but with passenger and fuel limitations.
“Whenever you go there you will see one or two King Airs, Mustangs, Phenom 100s and PC-12s. Regular customers enable it to stay in business, but conditions have been challenging for the airport, despite being located close to the city of St Tropez, right in the middle of the French Riviera,” concludes Wauters.