Gama Aviation has added a managed 12-seat Challenger 650 to its fleet in Jersey, after a client took advantage of the aircraft sales market conditions during the current pandemic to acquire a larger category aircraft that met the requirements of their growing family.
“Destinations previously unfeasible to them with their previous super light jet aircraft are now attainable, meaning they can now travel with the wider family on board their own aircraft rather than chartering in or travelling by commercial airlines,” says head of charter Adam Neaves. “In the current environment this is priceless to them, adding the security and safeguarding that brings piece of mind.”
Gama Aviation has for many years operated Bombardier Challenger series aircraft and therefore the process of onboarding the type to its AOC was not new. The aircraft is available for charter, enabling Gama to offset the clients operational costs through third party charter contribution. Neaves says the aircraft will be well received in the charter market due to its Jersey location, giving access to both the domestic UK and European market segments. “As the largest based aircraft available for charter on the island we expect it to be in demand once travel restrictions begin to lift and passenger travel confidence returns.”
Though travel is somewhat limited due to the pandemic, the aircraft has already operated multiple sectors across the Atlantic and shorter UK bound flights. “Feedback has been positive, and we look forward to welcoming the wider charter market on board once we return to more open skies,” notes Neaves. “Overall demand has been consistent during these times, with our clients heightened need for information and solutions. We’ve worked hard to supply solutions where possible and proactively prepare for the days when there are fewer restrictions, and we expect a significant rise in client enquiries in the near future. That includes the impending delivery of our Cayman Island AOC and the start of charter operations on our transient Global Express XRS and Global 5000 aircraft.”
The Challenger 650 adds further choice to Gama's UK/Jersey client base and, alongside a super midsize aircraft due in Q2 of this year, enables it to cover a wider market segment. “It enables us to retain charter client business that would otherwise have sought supply elsewhere from larger aircraft,” Neaves explains. “Our Channel Islands charter clients value and appreciate the fact that the aircraft is based on Jersey, which reduces complications with weather conditions such as early morning fog that can restrict same day positioning aircraft and thus affect client travel plans. To an extent they are also comforted by the fact that the aircraft crew are similarly locally based, which brings with it familiarity and that local touch that island life enjoys.”
There are significant challenges in Europe at present, he believes, with current travel restrictions and the uncertainty of Brexit having a major impact on aviation volumes, particularly in the charter market. This is highlighted by the 60 per cent reduction in UK traffic February 2021 compared with February 2020. Neaves says: “This is exacerbated by the length of time all movements take to plan and execute since Brexit, securing permissions across EU regions and ensuring we operate to the very strictest COVID protocols.
“Our maintenance operations in Europe are buoyant and we have a significant pipeline of major maintenance inputs arriving at our Bournemouth International airport authorised service facility. With our expertise in multiple aircraft types, including King Airs, Challengers, Globals and Hawkers to name but a few, we are confident this pipeline will continue to strengthen during 2021 and beyond.
“There are other positive signs across our network with our FBO in Sharjah reporting some positive figures with significant increases in footfall in December and January and an increase of 77 per cent in average movements per month over the same time frame.”