A new business model bringing affordable private air charter to the Gulf region has been announced at this year’s Abu Dhabi Expo. The privately owned Abu Dhabi-based start-up, GI Aviation, aims to maximise the capabilities and benefits of the Pilatus PC-12 NG aircraft to provide safe, cost efficient and flexible charter options to fulfill a growing need for affordable regional charter services of four hours or less.
The first aircraft, serial number 1604, was purchased direct from the manufacturer, Pilatus Aircraft Ltd, in Stans, Switzerland and was ferried into Abu Dhabi on 5 March 2016. It will be showcased at this week’s Abu Dhabi Air Expo on the static display where visitors will be able to view the comfortable, corporate and spacious interiors first hand.
GI Aviation has fillled all the necessary post holder positions and is currently progressing with the formal authority process to achieve an AOC from the General Civil Aviation Authority of the U.A.E. It is anticipated that the AOC will be awarded during the summer when it will become the first of its kind to bring this innovative model into the Gulf region. Operations are planned to begin in the last quarter of 2016. A second PC-12 NG is on order and will be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2016.
Marios Belidis has been appointed as general manager of the company. Formerly with Jet Aviation in technical roles and most recently at Al Bateen Executive Airport, where he led business development and ran the award-winning DhabiJet FBO, Marios is well positioned to lead the new business with his extensive regional network and industry knowledge.
“We are aiming to fill a gap in the market which is driven by a growing need for travel, from corporations and private individuals, that is affordable, reliable and fits with their travel schedules. The PC-12 NG has a range of up to 1,200nm, enabling us to reach destinations such as Jeddah, Doha, Amman and Karachi. The aircraft can also service unpaved and short runways, gravel strips and can fly into a number of island airstrips that are just not viable for larger jets, ” he said.
The company has undertaken extensive research into the market and has also identified a need for charter service on popular city pair routes currently flown by scheduled services. For example, business class seat prices between Abu Dhabi and Doha are reasonably high and often fully booked. “We’ve reviewed existing demand and established that we can be truly competitive in terms of offering private charter options for comparative scheduled first class and business seat prices. For a similar cost private or corporate groups can arrange executive charter on one of our aircraft to suit their times, point to point requirements, and individual needs. Overall it’s a much more convenient and efficient way of flying,” Marios added.
The first aircraft will be based at Al Bateen Executive Airport. “It is extremely exciting to bring a new aircraft type to the region. We expect some questions about the merits of turboprop and single engine operations, but we researched this extensively before selecting the PC-12 NG as our aircraft of choice. The PC-12 NG has all the benefits of jet aircraft, and more, but without the higher cost. It has a robust safety record, and with its outstanding Swiss engineering, the aircraft is extremely reliable and efficient. Its unique capabilities enable us to provide easy affordable access to private charter for many more people in the region. We have already had interest from a number of businesses that have heard about our offering and are interested to learn how it can support their commercial activity when operational.”
Ignaz Gretener, vp general aviation of Pilatus added, “We welcome this initiative from GI Aviation and completely support the mission and vision to provide wider access to affordable, reliable charter options in what is essentially an emerging market for our aircraft type. We believe once the market has experienced this attractive option, demand for the model will grow. It really is suited to the operating environment and makes executive travel available to a larger market.”
The PC-12 NG is a versatile, high-speed six to eight seat single engine turboprop with a cruising speed of 280 knots (520 km/h) and a pressurized cabin of up to 25,000ft. The aircraft is ideal for leisure and corporate trips and is fitted with a generous cargo door that has a height of 4ft 4in and width of 4ft 5in. The versatile aircraft boasts short field take off capability and land-anywhere characteristics. It is one of the most popular turbine-powered business aircraft on the market today with over 1,300 aircraft sold around the world. The aircraft is the most operationally efficient in its class with its appealing operating costs, ability for quick turnarounds, and versatile cabin configuration.
GI Aviation has engaged business aviation PR agency Emerald Media to assist with their launch and in service introduction.