DragonFly is developing business in the north of England after opening a new base at Durham Tees Valley. Howard Palser, ceo, says the development follows a short-lived association with Northern Aviation whereby Northern had taken one of DragonFly's aircraft on a dry lease.
"This arrangement ceased when Northern suspended its AOC at the beginning of June," Palser says. "The association with Northern has established a solid core of charter business originating from the north of England. We have recruited additional crew who are resident close to where the aircraft will be based at Durham Tees Valley.
"This move will enable us to cover the country from bases in the north and south and quote competitively by minimising the positioning cost to the point of origin of a charter."
Durham Tees Valley, Palser points out, is within a few minutes flying time of the Transplant Centre at Newcastle and is ideally placed as a base from which aircraft can be supplied to the teams of surgeons engaged in this vital work.
DragonFly likes to operate a three-strong fleet of King Air 200s but also has plans to expand into the jet market. Palser set up DragonFly in mid 2004 after a successful career as a solicitor "having personally experienced the immense time and cost savings from the judicious use of aircraft for business travel."
He adds: "Having gained a PPL I used my TB200 to visit my satellite offices in Birmingham and South-ampton and to see clients based as far afield as Newcastle-on-Tyne and Norwich - places notoriously difficult to access from my head offices in Cardiff. On retiring from active practice as a lawyer, but not minded to put my feet up, I ignored the advice of those who professed that the only way to earn a small fortune in aviation was to start with a large aircraft. I took offices at Cardiff airport and bought my first King Air 200 with the principal aim of providing the South Wales business community with the facility of an executive charter service on its doorstep - the only turboprop operation in Wales and the only charter service based at Cardiff's excellent 24/7 airport."
Palser says the initial response was very positive and target hours for the first 12 months of operation were comfortably exceeded. "Continued growth prompted the purchase of a second aircraft, a King Air B200SE which was completely refitted with new paint, exterior and digital avionics in a seven seat configuration.
"It immediately became a favourite of the principal charter brokers after coming on-line in early 2007. In 2008 the other King Air was given a thorough refit to match her sister aircraft, but retained an eight-passenger configuration. Both aircraft are immaculate." In addition the company operates a third late model King Air B200 based in Nottingham.
Palser adds: "A decision was made at the outset to operate the aircraft with two fully qualified type-rated crew, thereby providing the greatest factor of safety, and differentiating DragonFly from other operators who fly with a single type-rated pilot, with or without a pilot's assistant. In retrospect, the choice of aircraft was inspired. Now, with five years' experience of this model of aircraft, I can say with confidence that this must be the aircraft of choice for those wishing to travel quickly, safely, comfortably and economically."
The economic recession has brought a slow-down in charter activity, but as a lean operation supported by a mix of loyal clients and international charter brokers, Palser says DragonFly remains busy. "May proved to be the third busiest month since the company was formed, and the average charter hours flown in the current financial year equate with levels in 2007/8." He says that the traditional turboprop sector has been invaded by light jets and VLJs at quoted charter prices that are unrealistically low, whilst owners struggle to obtain some commercial return to offset the cost of the expense of ownership.
But DragonFly is actively pursuing a strategy of growth and, in addition to opening a base in the north east of the UK, is currently in discussions with interested parties for the acquisition of additional aircraft.