Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Inspite of the disproportional number of business/private jets in the region, this time the wealthy sheikhs don't fly; all major aircraft manufacturers converge to Dubai and spare no expense to showcase their best products to this very capable market segment.
From falcons (the bird, a traditional symbol and hobby in some of the Gulf countries) to huge airports, to business jets, many local leaders seem to have a particular interest in flight. Usually very mysterious, I will briefly introduce you to five of the more public Gulf aviation leaders. I shall start tomorrow with Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saif Al-Nahayan.
FACL intends the aircraft to be manufactured at Gulf Aircraft Maintenance Company's (GAMCO) new state-of-the-art facilities in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi and marketed regionally by The Gulf Aircraft Partnership - a joint venture between GAMCO and FACL.
Some of the carbon composite and metal parts for the aircraft were made in Abu Dhabi by GAMCO and are incorporated in the prototype.
'The Kestrel has been designed to bridge the gap between turboprops and substantially more expensive business jets, redefining its class and challenging the new generation of very light jets to match the Kestrel's all round capabilities,' said Richard Blain, Commercial Director - FACL.
'With direct operating costs falling well under $1 per statute mile, the Kestrel is a valuable and cost effective proposition to charter operators, corporations and governments seeking to increase productivity and flexibility.'
MEBA, organised by Fairs & Exhibitions (F&E) on behalf of the Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA), will feature a static display with an impressive line-up of 31 aircraft. The event has received strong international support and features 90 exhibitors from 20 countries.
'Aircraft manufacturing in the Middle East is a giant step forward for the regional aviation industry and demonstrates that the region's business aviation sector is in for rapid growth,'said Alison Weller, Aerospace Director, F&E.
Meanwhile the MEBA conference programme is due to explore some of the hottest topics facing the industry regionally, including the emergence of very light jets which herald a new era in aircraft and engine technology, pilot provisions and civil aviation criteria for business aircraft training in the GCC and Middle East.
More from Dubai: Royal Bank of Scotland to finance two Gulfstream IV-SP aircraft for National Air Services
The announcement was made during the first annual Middle East Business Aviation (MEBA) conference & exhibition in Dubai. The aircraft purchase is valued at over US$50 million and represents the first such collaboration between these two market leaders. RBS is one of the ten largest banks worldwide, and NAS is the largest and fastest-growing private aviation company in the Middle East.
Donal Boylan, Head of RBS Aerospace & Defence, which includes their Corporate Aircraft & Superyacht Financing Business, said: 'RBS has already demonstrated its commitment to corporate and VIP aviation in the region, with a number of aircraft financed and several others in the pipeline. Both NAS and RBS expect this market to grow significantly over the next five years and, by working together, we look forward to enjoying an important share of that growth.'
Taher Agueel, Chief Executive Officer of NAS, said: 'This agreement marks another significant step in the ongoing expansion of National Air Services. We continue to diversify our business portfolio and move into new markets, and the acquisition of two new long-range Gulfstream business jets will further those dual aims.'
He added: 'We are extremely pleased to make this announcement during MEBA, one of the region's premier industry events, and in partnership with RBS, a global leader in commercial and corporate Aircraft Finance. Indeed, we see this agreement as just the first in what we expect will be a long and mutually beneficial relationship.'
RBS, as part of its international growth strategy, is currently opening four offices in the region, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The bank is already ranked first in the Middle East in Project and Export Finance, and is a global leader in this category as well as in Asset Finance. Worldwide, RBS holds the number one, two and three positions, respectively, in rail locomotive leasing, commercial shipping and commercial airliner financing. RBS has had private banking operations through its Coutts brand in the GCC, whose regional offices are in Dubai.
NAS, which was established in Riyadh in 1999, is Saudi Arabia's only privately owned air transportation services company, operating a fleet of over 30 aircraft, making it by far the largest and fastest-growing such operation in the Middle East. The two aircraft being purchased will be delivered within the coming weeks and will support its thriving private aviation solutions, including NetJets Middle East (Fractional Aircraft Ownership & Leasing), Aircraft Management and Aircraft Charter, along with its unique hybrid solutions program.
HH unveiled a model of the world class facility which will be among the industry's best competing with Van Nuys in California, Teterboro in New York, Le Bourget in France and Farnborough in the UK.
The Executive Jet Centre will be built at the US$ 33 billion Dubai World Central, the 140 square kilometre urban aviation city taking shape at Jebel Ali, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, home to the dedicated flight centre designed to be a one-stop centre for business jet operations.
The Executive Jet Centre will be built adjacent to the Dubai World Central International Airport (JXB), which will be the world's largest airport being the size of Chicago's O'Hare and London Heathrow combined.
'Going by recent industry trends, the Middle East's burgeoning business aviation sector will see further growth and we need to be prepared,' said Sheikh Ahmed.
'Dubai World Central will lead the way in the region by providing world-class executive jet facilities that will rival the very best in the world.'
Global interest in the facility has been high, according to Khalifa Al Zaffin, Director of Projects and Engineering, Department of Civil Aviation, Government of Dubai.
'The Executive Jet Centre will be one of the biggest in the world in terms of expected traffic with a handling capacity in excess of 100,000 aircraft movements a year - a statistic big enough to attract all the important players worldwide,' explained Al Zaffin.
'The facility is expected to be operational by end-2008. It will include a dedicated duty-free, business centre, fitness room, food outlets and crew rest areas. The Executive Flight Centre will also feature a specific area for executive helicopter and heli-taxi operations.
Work on the first JXB runway, due for completion end of this year, is 50% complete. The 4.5 kilometre CAT III runway is designed to handle the new generation Airbus A380 aircraft and will enable JXB, and its adjacent Dubai Logistics City to commence operations as the world's largest freighter airport and logistics hub.
The US$ 8.1 billion JXB has been designed to handle in excess of 120 million passengers and 12 million tons of cargo annually.
Dubai-based 'Elite Jets' announces fleet expansion as regional demand for private air travel continues to grow
The company's current fleet also includes two Raytheon Hawker 850 aircraft and a Raytheon Hawker 1000.
The announcement comes as Elite Jets' charter operations continue to expand strongly, with the number of charter flight bookings doubling in 2006, compared to 2005, and as the overall number of private jet movements at Dubai International Airport continues to rise. According to Executive Flight Services, there was a five per cent increase in the number of private jet movements at Dubai International Airport in 2006, compared to 2005.
Paras Dhamecha, Managing Director of Elite Jets, comments: 'We are delighted to announce the addition of the Dassault Falcon 900B to the Elite Jets fleet; this aircraft extends and diversifies our operational programme into mid-large business jet aircraft, working with a new manufacturer and complementing the Raytheon Hawker aircraft that we already operate. The demand for private air travel continues to grow in the region and this is reflected in the demand for our charter, as well as aircraft management, services.
'This demand runs across business and leisure travel, and we are generating a lot of interest in our charter operations for travel to the major business centres of the GCC, North Africa, Asia and Europe - with the CIS region a current hot route for us. In addition, we are generating significant interest in the corporate sector, with regionally based companies choosing to book block hours with us.'
At MEBA 2007, Elite Jets will present its complete range of aircraft sales, management and charter services, alongside Raytheon Aircraft Company (the world's leading business and special-mission aircraft manufacturer) which Elite Jets represents exclusively in the UAE.
'Our working relationship with Raytheon Aircraft Company has been very successful over the last three years, including joint flight demonstrations and cooperation at the Dubai International Air Show and we expect MEBA to be another successful joint event for both companies,' adds Paras Dhamecha.
Elite Jets will focus on its sales and management services, which can be tailored to suit individual needs; the company's commitment to making the purchase, ownership and management of private business jets as simple and convenient as possible is proving successful in the corporate sector in the region, which is finding the concept of aircraft ownership increasingly attractive.
Elite Jets and Raytheon Aircraft Company will be welcoming clients and prospective clients to their shared chalet at the event. In addition, the presentation will include a range of five Raytheon Aircraft Company Hawker Beechcraft models, as part of a static display, featuring a Hawker 1000, Hawker 850XP, Hawker 400XP, Beechcraft Premier 1A, and Beechcraft King Air 350.
Caron Gledhill, Sales & Marketing Director at Elite Jets, comments:
'MEBA 2007 puts the spotlight on the business aviation industry in the region and creates a unique opportunity for Elite Jets to meet and network with key contacts. We have successfully secured Raytheon aircraft sales with buyers in the region and have taken these aircraft under management for the new owners. It's a partnership that is proving very effective and we expect to use MEBA as a means of meeting prospects together.'
In addition to its aircraft sales programme, Elite Jets has already built a solid business jet charter operation, working with various organizations operating in a range of sectors including banking, oil and gas, real estate and many other business fields. The company enjoys a strong working partnership with regional and international aviation brokers and, during the past year, has witnessed growth from the luxury business and leisure travel agencies. 'Our charter operation creates an excellent shop window in which to showcase a range of aircraft to prospective buyers within the region,' adds Caron Gledhill. 'We understand our corporate and leisure client needs and our ability to provide five-star service alongside our luxury aircraft, is proving to be a successful formula.'
Monday, January 29, 2007
Sunday, January 28, 2007
The designer's job was to oversee the plane's interior redecoration according with Sergey and Larry's specifications. The two had elaborate and eccentric tastes from king size beds in their private rooms on board to an exercise space, a lounge complete with dinning area and piano and hammocks hanging from the ceiling.
When Blue City renounced Jennings’s contract in 2005 on grounds of incompetence, the high-end designer filed a complaint against Blue City and Gore Design Completions Ltd. for a reported $200.000 unreceived payments.
The legal battle carries on even at this time, with accusations on both sides and Brin and Page in the middle. Although the contract had a nondisclosure clause, details on the agreement surfaced following the litigation. It seems that the eccentric Google Duo had a budget of 10 millions dollars set aside for retrofitting the Boeing but that they eventually overspent. In a related statement, Google representatives said that the company will not reimburse its co-founders for the costs.
Friday, January 26, 2007
I recall an acrimonious argument with Bob Crandall, the iconic former chief executive of American Airlines, some 20 years ago when I waxed lyrical about all-business-class flights with small jets on long "thin" routes, such as Nice to Atlanta, Birmingham to Minneapolis; what I like to call "regional long haul."
Bob was dismissive: "It won't work; you have to fill the back of the plane with economy passengers," he said.
What we might have agreed upon is that niche carriers might one day exploit lucrative business markets, especially between Europe and North America. Arguably, it is the next best thing to riding your own jet.
Fares are typically pitched at one- third to one-half that of business class with major airlines, and passengers may get to use private terminals at either end of the route, just like a corporate jet, allowing them to arrive 30 minutes or so before a flight, instead of shuffling in line through immigration and security. The downside is that you have far less choice of flight times, and if your plane should be canceled or delayed, you can be terminally stuck.
Here is how the start-up business class carriers compare:
 Silverjet (www.flysilverjet.com), which started a daily service between London Luton and Newark airport in New Jersey (that serves New York) on Thursday, operates a Boeing 767 with 100 seats that convert to 6 foot 3 inch, or 1.9 meter, lie-flat beds with individual reading lights.
There is a "quiet zone" on night flights, separate women-only lavatories, more than 100 hours of videos, noise-reduction headphones, and food and drinks individually served on request. On the ground, you can use a private air terminal at Luton with a 30-minute check-in time. Flights depart 10 a.m. London time, arriving in New York at 1 p.m.; from Newark, flights depart 7:30 p.m., arriving in London at 7:10 a.m.
Round-trip fares (for travel in March) are: £722, or about $1,432, in its "saver" category, £922 for "standard," and £1,340 for "flexible" — plus a £77.30 tax. (There's a promotional round-trip fare of £799 until June 30.)
 Eos (www.eosairlines.com) operates a twice-daily service between London Stansted and New York JFK, with Boeing 757s reconfigured to carry 48 passengers, each getting 21 square feet, or 1.95 square meters, of personal space, and seats that recline into 78-inch flat beds. A second adjoining seat allows colleagues to converse face-to-face comfortably or to work or dine together. Other amenities include personal DVD players, with Boss noise- canceling headphones, a flexible meal service, use of lounges at both ends, and fast-track security.
Flights depart London at 10:40 a.m. and 7 p.m., arriving New York at 1:25 p.m. and 9:45 p.m.; from JFK, flights depart at 7:15 p.m. and 8:55 p.m., arriving London at 6:40 a.m. and 8:15 a.m.
Round-trip fares (for travel in March) are: £1,766 "restricted"; £3,266 "unrestricted" — plus taxes.
 MAXjet (www.maxjet.com) operates daily flights between London Stansted and New York JFK with 102- seat Boeing 767-200ERs.
(MAXjet also flies between London and Washington, and Las Vegas, although the suspension of its Washington service until May 23 is not an encouraging sign.) Passengers get a conventional business-class seat with a 60-inch pitch and partial recline, and private lounges at each end.
Round-trip fares (for travel in March) are: £916 (including tax and surcharges).
 Elysair aka L'Avion (www.lavion.fr) started a six-day a week service between Paris Orly-Sud and New York-Newark this month with a Boeing 757-200 with 90 seats in a 2 by 2 configuration. Seats have a 147-degree recline and a one- meter, or about a 3.3 foot, seat-pitch. I booked a notional round-trip flight in March for €1,000, or about $1,300, (without tax), benefiting from an introductory price for the first 1,000 tickets sold. Regular fares range from €1,600 (with tax and surcharges) to €3,000, depending on how full the plane is when you book.
 Lufthansa pioneered business- class-only flights across the North Atlantic in June 2002 between Düsseldorf and New York with 48-seat Boeing Business Jets (reconfigured 737s) and later, Düsseldorf and Chicago, and Munich and New York, all at normal business-class prices, with 48- seat Airbus A319LR business jets.
 SWISS started an all-business-class service between Zurich and New York-Newark with a 56-seat Boeing Business Jet in January 2005 with lie- flat sleeper seats, at normal business- class fares.
 KLM operates 44-seat Boeing Business Jets between Amsterdam and Houston.
 British Airways quoted £2,090 (including tax and charges) for the cheapest (restricted) round-trip, business-class ticket from London Heathrow to New York JFK for travel in March. Air France quoted €2,386 for a similar round-trip business-class ticket from Paris Charles de Gaulle to New York JFK for the same dates in March.
Many travelers have learned to their cost that the price of an air ticket that they have bought online can just about double when it comes to the final amount charged. According to the London-based travel agents Trailfinders (www.trailfinders.com), there are 453 different taxes that passengers may have to pay, depending on when and where they book a flight and where they are traveling. Taxes range from the U.S. animal & plant health inspection tax and the British air passenger duty to the Sydney noise tax and the Canadian airport improvement fee.
The British air passenger duty will go up by £5 to £40 per ticket on Thursday. Most airlines raised fares as soon as this increase was announced on Dec. 6. But some are demanding extra payment for tickets booked months in advance. Ryanair has announced that all passengers will receive an e-mail regarding payment, and if they have not paid the extra tax by the day before their flight, they will not be allowed to travel. British Airways says it will absorb the extra costs for passengers who booked before Dec. 6.
But not all airlines agree how they should charge. An EasyJet spokesman said, "It's absolutely chaotic. There's going to be a lot of uncertainty on Feb. 1." Be prepared to pay extra tax when you travel from a British airport.
The new air passenger duty beginning in February is: economy class in Europe, £10; business class in Europe, £20; economy on long-haul flights, £40; business or first class on long-haul, £80.
Trailfinders takes the example of a British Airways round-trip economy flight from London to New York. Taxes make up 55 percent (£156) of the advertised £279 fare (valid from Thursday). The largest components are: fuel surcharge & security tax, £75; U.K. air passenger duty, £40; U.S. international transportation tax, £15.40. (Roger Collis in The International Herald Tribune)
Quebec Government's air transport arm (Service aérien gouvernemental) operates 20 aircraft, including 14 water bombers, 3 helicopters, and 3 transport/ambulance planes (Challenger 601-1A, Challenger 601-3A, Dash 8). The Challenger 601-1A is an ambulance aircraft, used for medical ferries. The Challenger 601-3A and the Dash 8 can be used for medical evacuations when the 601-1A is unavailable. They are otherwise chartered by the Government to fly the Premier, MPs and government freight.
Furthermore, the newspaper reports that Quebec Premier's air travel bill averages 10,000$ a week on frequent domestic legs. Jean Charest flies twice weekly between Montréal and Québec on one of the two Government-owned Challengers. In certain circumstances, private companies as well as international airlines are used.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
When the cynical gun-runner Nicholas Cage wanted to impress Bridget Moynahan in Lord of War, he got a private jet to fly her out of a remote resort. That essentially is what a private aircraft enables you to do — go anywhere, anytime you want to. The flexibility is also the reason that the aircraft is popular with companies around the world.
Internationally, biz jet sales are soaring. After decades of slow growth, this year has seen several Indian businesses going for the top of the line aircraft like Bombardier’s Global XRS and other large business jets.
Unlike the commercial aircraft market, which is split between just two players, the business jet market has a lot more competition. The biggest players in this market are Bombardier, Cessna, Gulfstream and Raytheon. Other players with a significant presence are France-based Dassault with its Falcon aircraft and regional jet manufacturer Embraer.
In India, corporate jets were earlier used by large business houses like the Tatas, Birlas and Reliance, who operated the aircraft and helicopters largely to ferry the brass to the remote sites where the factories were located. The primary change now is that small- and medium-sized companies are joining the club, there is also a bias towards larger, faster jets with intercontinental range. The change is partly a result of strong financial results and partly a requirement made necessary by growth — financial as well as geographical, say industry sources.
Some companies that earlier chartered planes from others have now gradually decided it makes sense to acquire their own planes. New bizjet owners include the likes of GMR Group, Punj Lloyd, Hindustan Construction and Jaiprakash Associates.
“The efficient use of business jets depends a lot on the extent of utilisation of the planes,” says PK Ratta, vice-president Raymond Aviation. The Singhania group company has been in the business of chartering aircraft for the past decade and has a fleet of three helicopters and two business jets, an HS-125 and the latest — a Challenger CL 604.
The aircraft are used by the company’s top management as well as chartered out. The Challenger, for example, is being hired for Rs 3.15 lakh per hour. Aircraft operations have a high fixed cost in the form of salaries, insurance and regular maintenance costs, says Mr Ratta. Bizjet owners often pay the same salaries to pilots and engineers as the large airlines.
The cost to company for an experienced pilot is now about Rs 50 lakh per annum, and the commanders are difficult to find even at these salaries, say company sources. The other major business group chartering planes are the Tatas, which have two Falcon 2000s available for chartered flights.
A look at the itineries of the CEOs using business jets shows a huge flexibility that a personal plane can give the top management.
Citing an example of the flexibility, Gautam Singhania of the Raymond group says, his company has joint ventures in several parts of the world and connections offered by commercial airlines are often not convenient. He can, for example, fly directly from smaller cities in India to any place in Europe, saving a day by not having to transit through Mumbai or Delhi. Much of the flying in the high-end aircraft is on international routes.
At the very top end, some corporates like Kingfisher and Reliance are going in for large business aircraft, that are actually commercial planes configured for business use. The two aircraft available in this segment, both with a sticker price of about $50m (Rs 240 cr), are the Boeing Business Jet and the Airbus Corporate Jet.
Four of these were sold in India in the past one year. Kingfisher Airlines and RIL have ordered the ACJs and the government of India has taken delivery of two BBJs to be used by the Prime Minister and top guns in the defence ministry. The lavishly configured planes can fly anywhere in the world with one stop, have the latest electronic gizmos for constant communication with the ground, and are a class apart from conventional business jets. Both Boeing and Airbus say they hope to find more customers for these in India.
Indian software majors, though, seem to be a class apart — almost absent from this market despite their obvious wealth. Given their spread across the world and within India, it is only a matter of time before they also get into the market, say industry sources. State governments are also buyers — they usually go for smaller turboprops which can land at small airstrips or helicopters, to be able to access remote locations.
Corporate aircraft are still not a subject most companies are comfortable talking about or even showing on their balance sheets. A bizjet is still perceived in most quarters to be a frivolous acquisition, rather than a timesaving device for the modern day CEO.
Several companies are working around the issue, through the sale and lease back route. Many of the large jets being bought by Indian corporate chiefs have been sold to international banks and then leased back from them. The asset is thus not on the balance sheet of the company and only the lease rental is accounted for. Aircraft makers hope the attitutude will change as India Inc gets more comfortable with bizjets.
Bloggers' hoax pictures of final moments of Gol 737-800 cabin after fatal September Amazon mid-air collision exposed
THE CLAIM: the photos (below) were taken by one of the passengers in the 737, after the collision.
THE CATCH: the pics were quickly revealed as fakes, having been taken from the hit US ABC television show 'Lost'.
The pictures have been exposed previously on Hoax Slayer, a site dedicated to exposing internet myths.
Brazilian federal court frees two US ExcelAire Embraer Legacy 600 pilots involved in Gol Linhas Aéreas 737-800 mid-air collision
Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino have been stranded in Brazil for 68 days following the 29 September crash that killed all 154 passengers and crew aboard the Gol flight. Travel restrictions were placed on the two pilots, employees of business jet charter company ExcelAire, as a result of a federal criminal investigation that was underway in parallel with an accident investigation. (Flight International)
Monday, January 22, 2007
The aircraft, configured for 35 passengers, will probably act as a corporate shuttle for the Canadian engine maker. The small jet was produced in Germany in 1999 and rolled out wearing test registration D-BDXL. It was delivered to Wanair of Tahiti, French Polynesia as F-OHJM (named "Marutea") on 15.12.1999 but the ownership was registered to SNC Tahiti Invest 1999 on 20.12.1999. The aircraft was subsequently returned to SNC Tahiti Invest 1999 on 29.09.2006. It was then purchased by UAM, re-registered as N129UM and stored at an unknown location (Tahiti-Faa airport?) until it was purchased by PWC.
Below is the interesting delivery route, which began in Papeete, French Polynesia and ended in Plattsburgh, one of Pratt & Whitney bases.
|19-Jan-2007||J328/G||Clinton Co (KPLB)||St Hubert (CYHU)||13:42 EST||14:08 EST||0:26|
|06-Dec-2006||J328/Q||Bradley Int'l (KBDL)||Plattsburgh Int'l (KPBG)||16:59 EST||17:37 EST||0:38|
|06-Dec-2006||J328/R||Monterey Peninsula (KMRY)||Bradley Int'l (KBDL)||06:29 PST||15:53 EST||6:24|
|05-Dec-2006||J328/||Hilo Int'l (PHTO)||Monterey Peninsula (KMRY)||09:02 HST||17:29 PST||6:27|
|03-Dec-2006||J328/R||Tahiti Faaa (NTAA)||Hilo Int'l (PHTO)||18:40 GMT||17:25 HST||8:45|
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Oprah Winfrey is about to receive the custom-built, $42 million executive jet she ordered from Bombardier Aerospace, a Canadian newspaper reported.
The talk-show host's production company, Harpo, is paying for the Global Express XRS jet, which will have seating for about 10 passengers, the Montreal newspaper La Presse reported.
A spokesman for Bombardier told the French-language daily that Winfrey's plane would be "typically equipped" for a jet with such a price tag. The plane will have leather interior and designer fixtures for the bathroom and galley, among other high-end trimmings.
Bombardier's line of executive jets have proved popular with the rich and famous. Director Steven Spielberg, computer mogul Bill Gates and Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte all reportedly have models of the Global Express jet.