Empire Aviation Group (EAG) is working in alliance with the Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) to operate a Cessna 208 Grand Caravan between the UAE and major tourist destinations.
The eight-seater single prop aircraft operates twice weekly every Thursday and Saturday from Abu Dhabi to Sir Bani Yas Island in the emirate's Al Gharbia Western region. But the service can also be chartered on demand as part of the accommodation package offered by Desert Islands Resort and Spa.
"This service, with an approximate flight time of 50 minutes, provides Sir Bani Yas visitors with seamless travel and enables them to maximise their time on this remarkable island," says Paras Dhamecha, EAG co-founder and executive director.
The experience gained on the TDIC operation, he says, "convinces us it is a viable extension to our business model and we will seek to replicate this with other non-aviation partners and investors. These might be those looking for a financial asset management or operational model linked to the aviation industry. We are already in discussions regarding opportunities in this area."
Dhamecha says EAG acquired the Grand Caravan Amphibian because it has a high-wing design that offers practical benefits, including greater stability, superb visibility, sun blocking and poor weather protection. "The high-wing design also means a simplified preflight inspection and easy access to pilot, passenger and cargo doors. The Caravan is constructed from aluminium, making it easy to maintain and repair, with no life limits on the airframe."
Dhamecha adds: "The TDIC role is a completely different style of operation to the rest of our business but it is also a logical extension to our business model. Operating amphibious planes with daily and weekly schedules is very different to our private charter operation. It is a full service operation in that we manage the operation in its entirety - other than marketing and sales - on behalf of the client.
"The 'scheduled charter service' is dependent on loads and the demands of the resort that the service serves. The common element which links this activity with the rest of our business is that it is still an asset management operation - but an extension of the way we have used the model so far."
He says a major challenge of the TDIC operation is its remote nature - operating away from a major airport environment. "Hence resourcing the programme with people, expertise and logistics are all greater challenges because of this. However, we have built a great working relationship with our partners in Abu Dhabi and this service is getting a lot of attention as we build our service provision."
In July EAG brought a G450 for a Middle East corporation under its management.
EAG's fleet has grown from one aircraft in September 2007 to 15 aircraft by August 2009. "Our newly managed aircraft are coming from a healthy combination of first time owners and current owners, sometimes driven by our own aircraft sales operations. Our flexible model means that we don't sell everything we manage and neither do we manage everything that we sell. Because sales and management are not necessarily linked, we can offer greater flexibility and attractiveness both to owners and buyers."
Dhamecha adds: "Regional business jet charter demand is not immune from the general business downturn - demand is weaker and there has been a slowdown. We saw a 40% to 50% drop in charter demand at the start of 2009 but this is now recovering to higher levels and the second quarter proved to be much stronger for us and we are seeing signs of a healthier charter market emerging through the year. Our growth prospects for 2009 remain good and we are looking at further extensions including the management of non-UAE based aircraft for owners, which offers some interesting business potential for us."