The privately owned Abu Dhabi-based start-up, GI Aviation, braved the weather to reveal its plans for launching a new service utilising 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 need for such a service had already been highlighted by the founding chairman of MEBAA, Ali Alnaqbi, who at the Global Aerospace Summit yesterday had said that the region needed to broaden its business aviation appeal away from the widebody jets usually associated with the region.
“There is a clear need for an operator to have smaller aircraft,” he said. That will broaden the use of business aircraft. For example at the moment you might pay $10,000 to fly from Abu Dhabi to Bahrain. Using a turboprop or a smaller jet will make this service much more affordable and reach more businesses and individuals.”
GI will meet that demand, the company said.
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 is being showcased at this week’s Abu Dhabi Air Expo on the static display where visitors have been able to view the comfortable, corporate and spacious interior first hand.
The start-up has filled all the necessary post holder positions and is currently progressing with the formal authority process to achieve its AOC from the General Civil Aviation Authority of the UAE (GCAA). When that is granted – probably during the summer – it will become the first of its kind to bring the Swiss aircraft 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. Belidis was previously 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.
“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,” he said. “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.”
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,” Belidis said.
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,” Belidis said.
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.