Speedwings, celebrating its 20th anniversary at Geneva, is seriously considering setting up a base at Payerne. The project highlights the spare capacity and potential at many airports that could be used to boost the growth of Switzerland as a centre for aircraft ranging from VLJs to 767s.
"Business aviation is growing fast in Europe and Switzerland is in the hub of it," says Speedwings project manager Jean-Yves Guillet. "Eurocontrol statistics state that Geneva airport, with an average of 60,000 movements per year, is the second largest in Europe for
services of this type. Consequently, relocating to regional airports would very likely make business aviation even more attractive and convenient, particularly regarding time slots, departure deadlines and parking facilities."
He adds: "Thinking along these lines with a view to providing improved customer services, Speedwings is seriously considering a further development in Payerne airport. This airport, ideally placed in the centre of Switzerland with direct motorway access, is used today solely as a military airport. Opening up to civil aviation is now under consideration. Its 2,900m runway and well-equipped infrastructure is perfectly adapted to the requirements of light jet aircraft, added to which its central location means that most of the major Swiss cities are, literally, just down the road."
Speedwings is considering a Payerne project that includes "the construction of an entire new section specially geared to the needs of civil aviation." Facilities would include a comfortably furnished building for welcoming clients, a state-of-the-art maintenance workshop and secure indoor parking for aircraft and private vehicles.
The project has already been submitted to the various authorities concerned and the Federal Office for Civil Aviation in Bern is currently studying it. The decision is due to be made public by the end of 2007.
"Speedwings hopes that the decision will be favourable," Guillet says. Founded in July 1987, Speedwings has enjoyed fresh capital injections in the last two years. "Combined with clearly focused marketing strategies this has led to soaring expansion: The initial fleet has been more than doubled and the company is now staffed by a total of 35 employees, two of whom
are investors and 22 of whom are pilots," says Guillet.
Speedwings, he says, can also draw on a network of highly qualified specialists and technicians. "Our mission is to provide reliable, safe, comfortable and rapid transportation for both businessmen and private travellers who wish to land at the nearest possible airport to their final destination." Each Speedwings aircraft can carry up to nine passengers and the flight range offered varies from 2,900 km to 3,350 km. "This is, of course, ideal for trips throughout Europe as well as to North Africa or the Middle East."
Growth in the business of private aviation is mirrored in Speedwings' own evolution. The company now flies six light jets - two Citation 560XLs, two Citation V Ultras, one C525A CJ2 and one C525A CJ1. A CJ2+, is to be delivered in the autumn "to meet customer expectations."
Guillet says: "Each aircraft is designed for commercial use and offers comfortably equipped cabin space as well as excellent flexibility in performance with potential landing access to over 2,000 European airports."
The company was founded by Francois Allaz and two partners. "All three were professional airmen who realised that travelling by more flexible light aircraft was best suited to the needs of businessmen. With a small fleet of three Mitsubishi Mu-2B turboprops, the company was part of the take-off of business aviation in Switzerland."
Sion, Bern, Buochs, Lugano, St Gallen/Altenrhein and Samedan airports have launched an initiative to secure a larger share of Switzerland's business aviation traffic. The six airfields are based in two of Switzerland's most prosperous business areas.
Bernard Karrer, Sion airport director, says: "We can accommodate all kinds of general aviation traffic as well as charter operations for aircraft types up to the B-737. We have a 2,000 metre runway."
The Alpine Jet Service FBO and the airport authority share the handling. "In 2007, we accepted 3,000 movements of general aviation business, out of a total of 48,000 movement of civil aircraft of all kinds," Karrer reports.
NetJets has built its own lounge at Sion airport. "It is the first lounge of that kind in Europe for NetJets," says Karrer.
He adds: "Business is growing very rapidly and we have excellent expectation for coming years. But the capacity of our airport is still not fully used. We can absorb more traffic in the future without major investments. Our location in the heart of the Alps is a real solution for the client wishing to come for holidays."
He points out that Zermatt, Saas Fee, Crans Montana, Verbier, Chamonix and Gstaad are resorts with direct connections to Sion airport. "The Lake Geneva Riviera, Montreux-Vevey-Lausanne, are nearby and Sion is a travel solution for this region as well."
Heinz Kafader, ground services manager, Alpar at Bern, says he is confident of attracting a great deal more business. "We have had very good talks with various operators," he says. "Due to the fact that Bern airport is adjusting the length of the runway by 220 meters we will be sure to have more operators as from May 2008. TAG Aviation, for example, confirmed to us that it will be able to operate more flights in and out of Bern as there will be no operational limitations any more for aircraft like the GIVs or GVs or the Falcon 2000."
Bern is strategically located between Zurich and Geneva and already handles a good deal of government-related traffic. But there are no slot problems and there is available aircraft parking space.