Kathryn B. Creedy suggests the problem is far deeper.
Just recently, USA Today blamed the pandemic for the loss of three US regional airlines and the 30-year-old capacity purchase agreements (CPAs) between regionals and their mainline partners for the industry’s perilous condition.
Its conclusion was misleading, but aviation consultants agree - regionals are sadly, becoming at risk in the post-pandemic world.
There are many reasons for this, but connecting dots that don’t add up is not productive. Rather, the credibility of the industry has been damaged because it has sought to capitalize on the crisis with faulty data.
The USA Today piece specifically pointed to the shutdown of Trans States and Compass airlines. Yet, both airlines – owned by Trans States Holdings, were due to close in December. They disclosed this prior to the pandemic, after they lost their mainline contracts.
Similarly, the article highlighted Alaska’s Ravn Air, Alaska’s largest regional, which claimed it closed down before it could get the CARES Act relief provided by Congress. Yet Alaska has one of the most powerful senators in Congress (represented by Lisa Murkowski) so it’s hard to believe there isn’t more to the story. Its bankruptcy filing suggests its problems pre-dated the pandemic. Some of its routes have since been picked up by Alaska Airlines, helped considerably by donated fuel from BP Alaska and Air bp.
I’ve been covering the regional airline industry since the late 1980s, initially editing the weekly Commuter Regional Airline News. The US regional airline industry has been long due for a shake up, with too many regionals chasing too few CPA contracts allowing mainline carriers to whipsaw the minnows for the lowest cost. This has resulted in meagre pilot contracts and, coupled with uncertainty at the larger airlines, a pilot shortage.
By Paul Eden.
Osprey Flight Solutions added Osprey:Open to its portfolio at the British Business and General Aviation (BBGA) Association annual conference in March - which turned out to be the last sizeable industry event before the lockdown.
Delivering advanced aviation risk analysis through a fusion of real-time information, technology and industry leading expertise, Osprey had intended to offer :Open free of charge to the industry for the first six months and on a paid subscription basis thereafter.
In the event, the emerging coronavirus crisis caused an instant rethink, with the company considering :Open’s contribution would be extremely important at a time when multiple stakeholders are looking for reliable data in a rapidly changing operational environment. It therefore opted to offer the platform via a free subscription indefinitely.
By Alison Chambers, Resilient Editor.
Graham Williamson is delaying the celebration “until the pubs are open,” but he is delighted that his one-year old charter and management business SONAS Aviation was awarded its Irish AOC on 5th April - two weeks into the lockdown.
“Inspectors had to come into our Shannon office, socially distancing, to finalise the paperwork and hand over the certificate. They were brilliantly helpful,” he says.
The rest of April immediately got busy with its initial Bombardier Challenger 605 despatched on repatriation charter flights out of Ireland. One charter involved an essential business flight transporting personnel and equipment for a company to Africa.
“It was the only opportunity for the client to get to West Africa (with British Airways and Air France unable to cover). We flew nine passengers out and 11 back. The group was new to private charter, but appreciated the convenience, ease and comfort and have since recommended us to other colleagues in their sector.“
By Ian Harbison
Like many Avgeeks I use the Flightradar24.com website almost like background music – the window is always open on the computer.
Previously, this was to check out aircraft and helicopters flying overhead but’ since the pandemic, it has become an interesting tool to watch how things developed.
By Alison Chambers, Resilient Editor.
Sometimes only business aviation can deliver. On March 20th, just days after the announcement of the travel ban for all non-US citizens into the United States, the Planet 9 sales team received a request for one of its Falcon 7X's to carry a British citizen from London to the Cleveland, Ohio - as soon as possible.
"At first glance, this seemed to be a clear violation of the travel ban. However, we quickly learned that the passenger was having twins via surrogacy," said Justin Carwile, Director of Client Services. "She and her partner had just learned the baby had to be delivered via emergency C-section."
"Armed with this information, P9’s Client Services Team quickly began working the phones. After escalating the issue all the way up to the CBP Station Chief and providing birth certificates, signed affidavits and numerous other documents proving that our passenger was indeed the mother of these newborn twins, we were granted approval to operate the flight as planned.
By Jane Stanbury.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic Bombardier has kept its service centre expansion projects on track, and as an essential service, has continued to operate its growing footprint of service centres, supporting customers worldwide.
Its service centres and mobile response team (MRT) have provided uninterrupted global service throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and been ready to support what has been a myriad of requests.
Jean-Christophe Gallagher, Vice President-General Manager, Customer Experience, Bombardier Aviation highlights that service teams have also been standing by to ensure customers and operators have their aircraft available for repatriation and medevac missions too. “The most pronounced impact we have noticed has been increased flexibility and capacity needed to support maintenance requests with shorter lead time requirements - while adhering to strict health and safety protocols to protect our employees and customers.” An unexpected benefit of this resulted in Bombardier technicians having an even closer rapport with its customers.
All employees and customers on site are required to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Strict screening measures and temperature checks are given to visitors, employees and management at each site.
The frequency of stringent cleaning and disinfection of sites has increased, and tip-to-tail aircraft sanitization protocols using ionizing aircraft sanitizers at each Service Centre has been introduced.
Dassault Falcon Service (DFS), a Dassault Aviation subsidiary, has converted a company-owned Falcon 900B business jet from passenger to full cargo configuration and gained approval for the aircraft in just eight days.
Revealing the project on 2 June, Dassault Aviation confirmed that the French civil aviation authorities approved the conversion under a fast-track exemption. The combined efforts of DFS customer service, engineering and operating teams saw the aircraft’s passenger seats and furnishings removed, and equipment for safely stowing and securing freight installed. Dassault Aviation then contributed test and certification resources. Deconversion to passenger configuration should be simple, since no major modifications were made to access doors or other systems.
The aircraft has a capacity of 13.5m3 (477cuft) cubic meters or 2,884kg (6,325lb) and is already moving fabric needed for face mask production to a facility in Eastern Europe, then delivering completed masks for distribution in France, North Africa and other areas either stricken by the COVID-19 pandemic or recovering from lockdown.
Members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on General Aviation (APPG-GA) have been successful in securing revised payment terms for its members through the Covid-19 crisis.
Ordinarily, regulatory charges for AOC and Aerodrome Licensing have to be paid immediately at the start of the financial year. Now the UK CAA has agreed that aviation businesses will have access to an extended 10-month payment plan for settling its annual charges.
Co-Chair of the APPG-GA Lord Davies of Gower said: “it is good to see the CAA has responded to our call for greater flexibility and is now helping aviation businesses weather the economic storm brought by Coronavirus. In March, the CAA froze any increase in its charges until 1st July, but official releases say they are keeping it “under continuous review.”
Many businesses are still threatened owing to continued restrictions on instructional flying and extended lockdowns in devolved regions, he noted.
WINGX Global Market Tracker:
Global business aviation activity is trailing by 51% comparing May and the first few days of June 2020 with the same period last year, according to WINGX`s weekly Global Market Tracker published today.
North America is the most robust region, with activity over the period recovering to 49% of normal levels, having been down by three-quarters in April. Starting May with a rolling 7-day average of 3,800 daily sectors, North America ended the month at around 6,200, an improvement of 63%. In the US, sectors flown in the last 7 days, which includes Memorial Day demand, are down only 3% compared to the same dates in 2019.
After North America, the bulk of business aviation activity has operated out of Europe, with trends still just over 60% below normal. Oceania has recovered by most, with traffic only 25% below normal, and South America is now running 27% below par. In Asia flight activity since the start of May is down by just over 50% year on year, although it’s more than doubled in the last week. At the start of the May, only half the normally active worldwide fleet was operational, and by the end of the month fleet employment was down only 20% on normal.
By country, business aviation demand appears to be most robust in Australia and Sweden, with jets and props operating 20% below comparative periods in 2019. Germany is the busiest country in Europe, with flights 44% below usual. Sectors flown within Germany are only 20% fewer than normal.
Flight activity in Russia and France is respectively 53% and 63% down. The countries seeing the largest negative impacts are still the UK, Spain, Italy, flight activity reduced by 70% and more.
Charles Alcock, Senior Editor, AIN Publications.
Charles Alcock is Senior Editor of AIN Publications - Aviation International News, Business Jet Traveler and new venture, Future Flight.
During the lockdown, from his Surrey, UK home, Charles has been drawing in hundreds of attendees from all over the world to AIN’s insightful webinars.
How has business life changed for you since the lock down?
I largely work from home so the lock down hasn’t changed that much, although it does feel different being ‘required’ to stay put. The main change has been the lack of industry events, conferences, press briefings or air shows to attend which just increases the sense of isolation. I do have a very strong daily connection with my US colleagues via Zoom and Slack. I’ve had to structure just about every day around webinars and conference calls. I find it surprisingly exhausting, even when I’m not required to speak!! In fact, so much time can be spent in online events and briefings that it can be hard to make time for writing. Let’s just say some of these are more valuable than others!
Who and what has been stand out for you in your industry interviews?
By Paul Eden.
The French Government launched Operation Resilience, a joint military response to COVID-19, on 25 March.
Bringing specialist healthcare, logistics and transport capabilities to the fight, Operation Resilience was reinforced after Dassault Aviation made individual company-owned Falcon 8X and Falcon 900 business jets available to the French Defence Ministry.
Operated by Dassault Falcon Service, a Dassault Aviation maintenance and flight operations subsidiary based at Le Bourget, Paris, the Falcons flew their initial Resilience mission on Sunday, 5 April. This first effort returned a team of 26 doctors and other medical personnel to their home base in Paris from Brest, Brittany, where they had deployed for an emergency evacuation mission.
Separately, two additional company aircraft, a Falcon 7X and a Falcon 8X, have been assigned to assist Aviation Sans Frontières, providing on-demand transport for emergency medical personnel and equipment.
While Dassault Aviation was lending four aircraft to the campaign against coronavirus, its parent, the Dassault Group, donated €2 million to Parisian hospitals.
BAE Systems supporting the UK national ventilator effort and working to donate 150,000 face shields to the NHS frontline
By Paul Eden.
Since late March, staff in BAE Systems’ Air sector, who normally produce parts for combat aircraft including Eurofighter Typhoon, along with colleagues in the submarines business, have been 3D printing parts for newly designed face shields, as well as sourcing tens of thousands of additional face shields through the supply chain for distribution to the NHS.
Air and technology team employees joined forces to manufacture the company’s first 3D-printed face shields in less than 24 hours; they were with NHS organisations in less than two days.
In April, engineers at the company’s Electronic Systems site in Rochester also joined the effort, developing a new face shield design and targeting production of up to 500 face shields per week over a six week period. In total, BAE Systems expects to donate 150,000 face shields to the NHS.
Interview by Kelly Murphy.
While we look forward to the beginnings of recovery in our industry, the long-term future of what’s likely to be a very different aviation ecosystem will be for a new generation of aviators and aviation professionals to decide. Introducing the second in a series, Resilient Aviation speaks with Samantha Poirier.
Samantha Poirier is the first female LifeLine pilot for one of Colorado’s largest medical providers, UC Health’s Medical Center of the Rockies flying an H125-AS350 helicopter.
She has always had a passion for aviation, but didn’t get started until she was 24. No one in her family was involved in aviation, nor did she have any contacts or role models when she started.
“I began going to school to study air traffic control,” Samantha says, “My professor encouraged us to take an intro flight to see what it was like to talk on the radio and flying. Once I took my first flight I was hooked! I sold my horse, who I loved dearly, to pay for flight school.”
Marc Bailey, British Business Aviation Association CEO and Chair Aoife O'Sullivan point to what companies must do to stay compliant.
By Kelly Murphy.
The Aloha Aviators, an innovative group made up of amateur female pilots and Delta flight attendants - all members of Women in Aviation International - have been frantically sewing face masks non-stop since late March.
Collectively, they have donated 1,000 masks to hospitals, critically ill patients, flight attendants, and first responders to the remote Island of Oahu, Hawaii. In April, multiple flights were performed by a single-engine propeller aircraft carrying masks, as well as supplies for cats to the outer islands of Maui and Lanai.
Over 100 handmade masks and supplies were flown to the Hilo Medical Center by 17-year-old pilot Abigail Dang and her mentor Nobi Buntin.
Duties were delegated according to each flight attendant's skills. Working in five main groups they handled acquiring resources, washing and ironing, cutting, sewing, and distribution. The Honolulu-based Delta flight attendants, on a leave of absence from their airline, volunteered their time and energy to ensure the safety of their colleagues and the local community.
Talk of an ‘air bridge’ between the UK and Portugal to remove the need for quarantine was being discussed by the UK and Portuguese Governments at press time.
Hotels, bars, restaurants are hairdressers! are open. Golf courses are open (with restrictions on player numbers) and the beaches reopen from Saturday. This is good news for Omni Handling, which is getting ready to open two new FBOs in Faro and Cascais as early as much month.
“Just like the rest of Europe we have been handling mainly repratriation and essential air service flights these past weeks.” Now it is starting to see a modest return from usual visitors, said CEO Ricardo Pereira, as a result of borders opening by EU countries, Switzerland and Portuguese speaking countries. “We’ve had to be pretty resilient too,” adds Jerome Franier, providing our own inflight catering services, when our usual supplier temporarily shut down.
According to WINGX data, Portugal has seen March to May month to date flights just -59.5% down with 64 flights. There were 54 active business jets with a peak between 21 and 25th May.
By Chloe Wilson
Following an understandably quiet April and first half of May Boston-based jet charter operator, Waltzing Matilda Aviation (WMA), has seen an uptick in business over the last couple of weeks.
Based on levels of activity at its home base - Laurence G Hanscom Field Airport in Bedford, Massachusetts - WMA’s CEO, John Thomas, believes business is coming back faster than for some of the bigger national players who have been forced to furlough crew during the downturn.
At the end of May Thomas revealed that WMA has been fielding up to 50 jet charter enquiries a day up from 5-10 just two weeks ago with an imbalance of clients wanting to fly from Florida to the north east. This week he told Resilient Aviation that, “The rebound continues.
The initial burst was the usual (wealthy individual) migration from Florida to the north east marking the traditional spring migration. Over the past week we have seen more enquiries for business related trips - trips from the north east to the mid-west, so it looks like business people are getting back on the road.”
By Liz Danner
As European countries start emerging from lockdown, things are beginning to look a bit more optimistic on the business aviation front, the BCA/Aviation Week webinar ‘Strategies for recovery’, moderated by John Morris, editor in chief, highlighted last week.
Athar Husain Khan, Secretary General of EBAA, highlighted: “Since the end of April our members have seen a slight turnaround and an upswing in market activity.” Robert Fisch, President Aviation Services of global private aviation operator agreed. Ian Moore, Chief Commercial Officer of VistaJet went further, saying: “Pretty much every week in May so far we have seen an increase in demand and that curve is moving up into June as well.” Adam Twidell, CEO of PrivateFly concurred: “Demand is there and we are seeing a higher number of flight enquiries than this time last year.”
VistaJet’s Ian Moore, highlighted: “According to a recent McKinsey report only 10% of people who can afford to fly privately do so. There is a lot of money out there that is just not flying privately. Covid-19 will result in a new batch of clients coming into to bizav. This makes us confident for a six-month turnaround. (In an online vote 34% of listeners thought the recovery would come in six months, the highest percentage).
“Over the past year, 25% of our customers have been new to private aviation. Last month, that increased to 65% and now we are seeing 70%. This is tremendously exciting for the industry and it’s being mirrored in the jet card world as well."
Alex Berry suggests, as devastating and terrible it is, the Covid pandemic has brought about the most positive repercussions for business aviation in decades . . .
Covid is a serious threat to life and businesses around the globe. The length and depth of the financial, social and physical challenge is appalling and not yet fully known.
Taking that as obvious, let me ask you to remove the raw emotion from your analysis, and consider things in a wider context. Could it just be that this situation may turn out to be the most positive thing that has happened to business aviation in decades?
To confound this narrative, commercial airlines were offering ever lower fares, with, (at business class level) ever greater whistles and bells. First Class extended to Suites and butler services, tempting potential business aviation customers to save money and stick with the tried and tested. At least you wouldn’t have to face Extinction Rebellion solo - you could just hide in the queue with the other regular fliers.
'Light jets and props are the bizav heroes' says WINGX's Richard Koe
WINGX has been busy analysing business aviation data globally during the lockdown and has observed that the narrative of heavy metal demand outstripping light aircraft has “really been turned on its head.”
Larger cabin aircraft have predominantly been parked during the last two months, whereas the smaller cabin jets and props have carried much of the resilience in activity.
Overall, business aviation activity has proven to be much more resilient than commercial, as reflected in the non-scheduled share of total fixed wing activity. On a global basis, this share was around 15% pre-crisis, and now stands at more than 35%.
Going forward, WINGX believes that the lighter aircraft operating in business aviation may be used to rejuvenate air taxi charter operations. “There will still be a certain amount of environment shame (flying privately) but a smart propeller plane cabin, modestly fitted, designed for business, more utilitarian, will certainly help,” commented Managing Director Richard Koe. “I think we will see our recovery coming through in several phases, he suggested.
“There will be some pent up demand, then another bump downwards as the furlough and government loan packages stop, but after that, business aviation could thrive, especially in replacing the connectivity gaps left by commercial. Realistically we could well be back to within 10% to 20% of full recovery by early next year, and from there, we expect to see new innovative business aviation models popping up.
The UK Government’s decision to introduce new quarantine measures from 8 June is simply “too little, too late,” challenges Kevin Ducksbury, Chairman of the Air Charter Association (ACA).
He argues that the measures, confirmed by Home Secretary Priti Patel yesterday, are being introduced at a time when the majority of the EU is starting to remove similar restrictions implemented at the start of the crisis. The UK’s decision to introduce a blanket quarantine now, “reveals a limited understanding of all sectors of the aviation industry, features inconsistencies that discriminate against aviation professionals, and, in the case of the global air charter industry, prevents high-priority travel by decision makers that is vital to the UK’s recovery and future prosperity.”
“If business leaders, who generate many millions of pounds of investment in the UK economy, and employ many millions of people in the UK, are unable to travel for short periods to the country, we believe this will materially worsen the economic harm for the UK economy and aviation industry and further delay their recovery.”
By Jane Stanbury
Corporate Jet Investor held its EBACE-replacement town hall to satisfy the annual itch for the industry to gather together in Geneva.
While not quite the same, speakers and participants agreed they were all missing the annual industry event.
Ed Bolen, President of NBAA, delivered some respite, confirming EBACE 2021 will return with sustainable aviation fuel, urban air mobility and a mock-up of the Gulfstream G700 already on the agenda. “In this instance. business aviation is a leading indicator of a recovery, rather than a trailer,’ he said.
Pointing to a quiet market, save for essential and repatriation flights, LuxAviation Chairman Patrick Hansen echoed the thoughts of many participants in suggesting there will be a bump in activity as the world starts flying again. But come Q4, the economic fall-out will really strike.
Graham Williamson, founding CEO of SONAS Aviation, which has just achieved its Irish AOC is cautiously optimistic but agreed that the sector may need to “baton down the hatches for the winter.” (See related story).
Aoife O’Sullivan, Partner Founder of The Air Law firm and Chair of the BBGA agreed. “It’s good to see the transactions coming back, it seems positive. I don’t want to say it’s all good and fine, but it is important to note that there is activity.”
It’s an excellent time for M & A suggested PrivateFly CEO Adam Twidell. Speaking as an entrepreneur who has been acquired, the benefits are great, he told the AvWeek/BCA webinar last week.
For companies that are struggling with cash flow and competitors, being part of a bigger group means you can make savings on shared costs, allowing you to take the brakes off and focus on growing your business even during a crisis like Corona, whilst others are scaling back. He added that Kenn Ricci, Chairman of Directional Capital, PrivateFly’s owner, is on the look out for acquisitions.
Kazakhstan’s Air Astana has launched a dedicated cargo operation Air Astana Cargo, with three converted Boeing 767-300s.
The move follows a heightened demand for regional freight transport over recent months and a strategic review of its overall fleet in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. During the crisis Air Astana responded to needs to fly medical equipment and supplies across Kazakhstan, Central Asia and Europe, including London Heathrow with a specially fitted out B767-300 passenger aircraft.
The airline resumed domestic passenger flights with its Airbus and Embraer jets last month. It is already averaging load factors of 74% on Air Astana and 91% at its LCC FlyArystan.
By Paul Eden
magniX and AeroTEC successfully flew the world’s largest all-electric aircraft for the first time last week.
Their modified Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, the 'eCaravan', flew for 30 minutes around Washington State’s Grand County International Airport with magniX’s 750hp magni500 motor replacing its usual Pratt & Whitney Canada turboprop engine. The flight was “flawless”, magniX CEO Roei Ganzarski declared, speaking with media channels around the world, including BBC Breakfast. (video here).
The “eCaravan" flew for 30 minutes around Washington State’s Grand County International Airport.
The current eCaravan can support a limited four to five passengers (versus up to 14) over a 100-mile distance. magniX and AeroTEC hope to transport nine people 100 miles once technology has advanced. They aim to achieve certification as early as 2021.
In December, Seattle-based magniX achieved first flight on an electric de Havilland Canada Beaver seaplane. It is provides motors for eAviation’s Alice, which made its international debut at the Paris Airshow last year.