Antwerp-headquartered operator FlyingGroup is full of praise for its recently-inducted PC-24, which was added to the AOC at the end of August. After flying seven hours at the end of that month, the aircraft then notched up a further 53 charter hours in September.
COO Jurgen van Campenhout has had a very busy workload of late, but wishes there had been more flying taking place. “Things could be busier in terms of flights, but we have seen worse. March, April and May were especially bad, and now we are flying quite a lot by comparison, but it’s more or less only in Europe. We are a long way off what we would usually hope to do, especially on the bigger aircraft – the transatlantic and long haul routes. We have had a few flights to the US, but you need special permissions and special arrangements from customs in the US to come over. At the moment it takes four times longer to prepare a flight than it did before coronavirus, with all the administration and the documents and all the restrictions that you have to check.
“The PC-24 has been going brilliantly though. We are seeing some new customers that haven’t necessarily flown privately before. And then there are the customers that flew occasionally before who are flying a lot more because there is no commercial flying available. They have had to go for charter in the absence of scheduled options.”
He says that it helps that the PC-24 is a relative newcomer to the market. “I would say if you compare it in its class, it is slightly more expensive to run than a CJ3+ or a Phenom 300 in terms of direct operating costs, but on the other hand its cabin is more spacious. It’s a totally different aircraft. I would say we are around 10 per cent more expensive than the CJ3+, but the PC-24 is definitely more popular in terms of cabin and in terms of appeal as well. The model is not really widespread yet in Europe for charter, so I think there is also a novelty about it; it’s the new kid on the block.”
FlyingGroup has managed to advance quite a lot of maintenance during the virus period, especially in April and May. Van Campenhout and his colleagues anticipated that the market would reopen by June, and this prediction was borne out. “We had quite a lot of aircraft free to go,” he explains. “In the segment of the CJ3 and the M2 that we have, we outperformed last July and August. We were flying between 80 and 90 hours on each aircraft per month.
“We know that the rest of the market is coming back. The long range aircraft like the Falcon 900, 7X and 8X, they still fly as well, but mainly within Europe because restrictions are in place and coming back to the Schengen area is quite strict. In Belgium, if you come out of the Schengen zone you need to be quarantined, no matter where you come from. So people are not really keen to fly outside of it and the bigger part of our fleet is more or less staying in Europe, with some corporate activity to the US, Africa and the Middle East too. It is picking up a little bit, because people are getting tired of coronavirus.”