Coronavirus COVID-19 is continuing to impact on all industries, including business aviation. The biggest story today is that China has reported no new domestic cases for the first time since the virus was identified. There does appear to be a spike in business jet travel as passengers rush to get back before borders close, but once borders shut, aircraft are being grounded.
The Dollar strengthened last night, which may encourage foreign owners to sell aircraft. However, very few transactions are going through this week. “I closed two deals on Monday,” says one Asian lawyer. “But everything else transactional is dead.”
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The National Business Aviation Administration (NBAA) will hold a free webinar on Friday March 20, in which medical and international operations experts will give guidance on how to deal with the threat of Covid-19.
The webinar will start at 11:00 eastern standard time. Amongst the experts on the webinar will be Dr. Paulo Alves, MedAire, Robert Moya, senior operations manager, Universal Weather and Aviation, and Christine Vamvakas, senior account manager – charter management, Universal Weather and Aviation.
You can register for the webinar directly by clicking here
Flexjet, the US-based fractional operator, will limit the potential exposure of its crew to coronavirus by using its own aircraft to ferry them between flights, rather than risk them travelling on commercial airlines.
The company says that it has put the new measures in place not only to protect its crew, but also the aircraft owners as well.
In a press release, Michael Silvestro, CEO, Flexjet said “This change in our business model reinforces two of our three guiding principles – ‘Employees Are the Foundation of a Service Company,’ and taking a ‘Long-term Approach to Relationships. While there is no regulatory obligation demanding we make this move, we believe it is the most prudent decision based on the information available today.”
You can read the full release below.
Flexjet LLC, a global leader in fractional private jet travel, today announced that its pilots and flight crews will no longer rely on commercial airlines to travel to or from flight assignments but instead on Flexjet’s private fleet. This unprecedented method of crew transport has been put in place to protect the health and safety of Flexjet Owners and flight crews during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Historically, flight crews in both commercial and private aviation regularly have used commercial airlines to travel from their home base to reunite with their aircraft for their flight assignment,” said Flexjet Chairman Kenn Ricci. “But, given the threat posed by the novel coronavirus and the illness COVID-19, we felt it was in the best interests of our Owners and flight crews to take this risk out of the equation and transport our flight crews on our own aircraft, which have been treated with MicroShield 360, a protective coating that kills 99.99 percent of pathogens.”
Taking its pilots and flight crews off of commercial airline carriers also enables Flexjet to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations that groups be limited to no more than 10 people for the next few weeks. Flexjet is implementing this effort, internally named Project Lift, for all U.S. domestic flights as well as internationally-bound flights still permitted by the U.S. and other governments.
Every business is finding ways to provide safe working environments for employees and customers, and the private jet industry is no different. Ricci has long been an innovator in private aviation, and this move comes just as Flexjet has completed treating its fleet interiors with MicroShield 360. As seen with other industries, competitors are coming together to find innovative solutions to navigate this unique environment. Ricci committed to assist any competitors in the private aviation industry who need help designing safety measures for their organizations.
“This change in our business model reinforces two of our three guiding principles – ‘Employees Are the Foundation of a Service Company,’ and taking a ‘Long-term Approach to Relationships,’” said Flexjet Chief Executive Officer Michael Silvestro. “While there is no regulatory obligation demanding we make this move, we believe it is the most prudent decision based on the information available today.”
In order to implement the program, Flexjet pilots and flight crews will drive to one of seven strategically located hubs around the country, where they will be ferried aboard a controlled and select group of Flexjet aircraft to reunite with their flight assignments. Through careful scheduling, using Flexjet’s proprietary software, and extension of tour lengths, the new shuttle system will remove flight crews from the commercial airlines with minimal disruption.
“Decisions about safety can never be made based on their impact on the bottom line,” said Ricci. “There’s no doubt that this will have a cost impact on Flexjet, but it’s the right thing to do for our employees and it’s the right thing to do for our Owners as we move ahead through this global crisis.”
The measure to remove flight crews from commercial airline travel continues a long commitment to safety by Flexjet:
• Flexjet recently earned its 21st consecutive Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Diamond Award of Excellence for Aviation Maintenance Technician Training.
• Flexjet holds the Aviation Research Group/US (ARG/US) Platinum Safety Rating, among the most esteemed aviation safety ratings, which it has earned every two years since 2008.
• Flexjet is IS-BAO compliant at level 2, based upon a global, voluntary code of best practices with a safety management system, and was the first fractional jet ownership program to meet the Industry Audit Standard of the Air Charter Safety Foundation, perhaps the most demanding standard for Part 135.
LunaJets told Corporate Jet Investor it has seen an increase in demand for Chinese citizens and students flying back home since Tuesday (March 17th). It reported completed trips to Hong Kong, not mainland China, which will have quarantine measures for all incoming flights from high-risk areas from tonight (March 19th).
Financial Times said Hong Kong airport was running out of space for jets earlier today.
“However, as more clients reach their final destinations and more countries close borders, there is a decline in activity today,” said Eymeric Segard, CEO, LunaJets. “Less and less people will need to come back because they are already home.”
As such, Segard expects further business aircraft flights to be restricted into destinations around the world. “Spain and South America are closed – except Bolivia and Mexico – and Turkey and Israel are increasingly complicated as well,” he said.
In the best-case scenario, Segard says private jet flights will experience a slowdown for next the seven to 10 days. And in the worst case, bans continue for two-week intervals until the threat in different countries has reduced.
He also hopes the Schengen area-wide travel ban – which will deny non-Schengen passport holders from entering the 26 countries – does not affect movements between member countries.
Read the full interview with CEO Eymeric Segard on our website here.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said today that Brazil will close its land borders to foreign visitors for 14 days. The South American country shares borders with eight other countries.
In a fascinating blog post, Avinode’s head of data and insight Harry Clarke talks through the trends that the online charter marketplace is already picking seeing.
Using a series of charts pulled from Avinode’s own data on flight requests, Clarke breaks down requests by the most important regions and comments briefly on the prospects for each segment.
Overall, Clarke suggests that the “…intercontinental charter market could prove more resilient than other parts of our industry.”
You can click here to read the full post.
The number of offshore helicopter flights will be hit heavily by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Air and Sea Analytics research.
Coronavirus has driven down demand for oil and gas and impacted the day-to-day operations on oil rigs, spelling bad news for offshore helicopter operators who have, so far, witnessed an uptick in flight hours in 2020.
“The situation is not sustainable,” Steve Robertson, founder and principal of oil and gas analyst firm Air and Sea Analytics told Helicopter Investor. “Offshore oil companies are going to start thinning down the number of staff on oil platforms, effectively cancelling maintenance work or turn around programmes – only keeping the crew necessary to keep production going.”
Read the full story on Helicopter Investor.
Up to 1m British nationals may be trying to return to the UK in response to the global coronavirus pandemic, according to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. The Foreign Office is facing a huge challenge to help repatriate hundreds of thousands of Britons, said Raab. Particular problems are reportedly encountered in repatriating people from Morocco, Peru and Vietnam.
Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has urged Britons who are planning to return home to act swiftly. Speaking after a telephone conference with major airlines and airports yesterday (Wednesday, March 18th), Shapps said: “We need to send a message to any British passengers overseas who are planning to return to the UK soon – it’s important to take account of the fast-moving situation and plan accordingly while flights remain available in many places.”
The minister pledged that the Department for Transport and the Treasury will work together to develop a range of measures to support the industry in the coming days to help the aviation sector manage the impacts of coronavirus. “Coronavirus is having a crippling impact on the aviation industry and we cannot allow it to force world-leading, well-run, profitable firms out of business,” he said. “We are extremely grateful to airport and airline teams who are continuing to help passengers get home safely. We stand firmly behind the sector and expect to announce a series of support measures shortly.”
Richard Koe, managing director of WINGX told Corporate Jet Investor earlier that the firm “…has noted an increase in YOY flight activity from Europe to China, with almost three times as many flights as usual in the first half of March, especially since the end of last week when European borders started to close and airlines cut back their schedules. Most of this outbound traffic has come from the UK, mainly Luton, and from Switzerland, principally Geneva.”
IATA, the International Air Transport Association, said in a Twitter post that the Covid-19 crisis is worse for aviation than any other crisis in living memory. It also implored governments to help, saying that millions of jobs are at stake.
— IATA (@IATA) March 19, 2020
Universal Weather and Aviation posted a video on YouTube detailing how it processes the ever-growing stream of information about the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the video, it says that it has received over 1,000 messages since it began monitoring the outbreak in December 2019, and discusses how it verifies information before publishing it.
As the pandemic continues the supply of Jet-A could be negatively impacted. Despite the challenges presented by Covid019, flight support solution and fuel supplying firm, Flightworx, are continuing to provide support to clients.
Flightworx said: “With the ongoing global concerns and uncertain times, we understand your operation needs to keep moving with minimal delay.
Flightworx has activated its contingency plan which means we are best suited to keep your operation running and our teams will always be available 24/7.
If you are forced to operate a self isolation campaign and your logistics of operating be that human or software are affected then Flightworx would like to offer you free use of our services for a period of time until you are back on your feet.”
Bernhard Fragner, CEO of Austria-based operator GlobeAir said that as European governments show no signs of closing down airspace, GlobeAir will remain operational, although he does concede that some restrictions mean that his team will have to adjust the way they operate.
Gama Aviation says that its Bournemouth facility has cost-effective availability for operators looking to park or hangar their aircraft.
“Gama Aviation’s Bournemouth facility is reaching out to support operators requiring parking, hangar and basic aircraft care services whilst they have aircraft on the ground. Scott McVicar, Managing Director, Europe Ground commented: “We have availability and are keen to help those that are looking for more cost effective parking and hangar solutions. In addition, and for certain types, we can offer engine runs and other care packages to keep the aircraft ticking over. This crisis won’t be over tomorrow and we all need to help each other keep our aircraft, people and businesses intact such that they are immediately available when flight restriction are lifted.”
For more information contact Mark Durcan on +44 1202 013782 or https://www.gamaaviation.com/locations/bournemouth/
Sikorsky’s operations and supply chain are currently unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic, a spokesperson for parent company Lockheed Martin told Helicopter Investor.
As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US reaches 6,413, the Connecticut-based manufacturer is monitoring the development of the pandemic closely. But the company has yet to see a significant effect on its daily operations and supply chain movements.
John Neilson, director of international communications, Lockheed Martin told Helicopter Investor: “There are no specific impacts to our operations or supply chain at this time. We will continue to monitor and coordinate with customers should issues arise.
“We are mitigating any potential impacts to customers and implementing business continuity plans as required, including secure telework for our customer support teams.”
You can read the full story on Corporate Jet Investor’s sister site Helicopter Investor.
Helicopter OEM Bell’s manufacturing and day-to-day operations have avoided disruption by the coronavirus, a company spokesperson told Corporate Jet Investor.
The development of the Coronavirus pandemic, also known as Covid-19, has so far not impacted the Texas-based OEM’s day-to-day business. But the company is monitoring the situation and affirms the health and safety of its employees is of upmost priority.
“Bell’s top priority is the health and safety of our employees. We’re staying vigilant and closely monitoring the situation and its impact worldwide. Our facilities are operating on their regular schedules, without any disruption to our manufacturing and operations.
“The health and safety of our employees is of utmost priority to our company. Bell has established preventive measure in accordance with CDC [Centres for Disease Control and Prevention] and WHO [World Health Organization] guidelines for employers and continues to provide all the necessary information to our workforce and customers.”
You can read the full story on Corporate Jet Investor’s sister site Helicopter Investor.
Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis, Teal Group Corporation, gave his thoughts on the impacts of the covid-19 pandemic on business aviation.
Aboulafia told Corporate Jet Investor, “Not good, I’m afraid. Whenever a pandemic or terrorism event comes along, there’s an anecdotal upsurge in people considering private aviation. While this makes sense, this has never proven to be sustainable beyond the short-term. Worse, this crisis is very badly damaging equities markets, which are closely linked to business jet demand. Perhaps worst of all, this crisis is hammering fuel prices, which are closely linked to high end business jet demand. Resource-rich countries and energy extraction companies are crucial to large cabin jet demand.”
Business aviation is applying the lessons learnt in the global financial recession of 2008 and taking early action to try to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, also known as Covid-19, according to Christopher Marich, co-founder and global strategy director of My Sky.
“Compared with the situation at the start of the recession in 2008, when people were inactive, we are seeing a much more proactive approach now,” Marich told Corporate Jet Investor. “We are noticing a big increase in contacts from people looking to us for information on how to manage their private aviation costs,” he said.
“This week we have seen less activity than the previous week [as private jet customers responded to the US President’s travel ban],” Marich told Corporate Jet Investor yesterday (Wednesday, March 18th). “Predictably, the aircraft most in demand, both from existing users and new charterers, were the large cabin aircraft with Transatlantic capability.”
Also, once missions are completed, private jet operators are grounding aircraft and asking staff to take leave in a bid to cut costs.
Headquartered in Switzerland, the financial services company offers IT tools, such as artificial intelligence, optical character recognition and machine learning to private aviation industry stakeholders. Clients, ranging from owners, operators and consultants, use the technology to automate time- and money- consuming tasks with the aid of cost bench-marking.
WINGX says that business aviation flights in Europe are down 6.9% in the first 17 days of March, compared with the same period in March 2019.
Of the largest business aviation markets, France has seen the largest fall in departures (12% down) followed by Germany (down 4%). Flights from Spain, the UK and Sweden are up.
Large Jet activity is well down. With Super Light, Super Mid, Very Light and Entry Level flights are up.
“Business aviation is clearly impacted by the Coronavirus, with accelerating declines in the last few days belying the overall 7% drop month-to-date,” says Richard Koe, managing director of WINGX. “We expect flights to dry up next week once restrictions are stricter and the repatriation rush is done. That said, notwithstanding the enforcement of personal travel, we do expect a strong demand for business aviation to fill gaps left by the grounding of airline capacity. By comparison with business aviation, airline flights have declined much more heavily.”
“Airline flights have declined much more heavily”
Paris Le Bourget has seen the biggest drop in activity with flights down by 11%.
Flights within Germany and within Sweden are well up. With internal flights in France and Italy down.
Aircraft management companies have seen a big reduction in flight, with branded charter operators up compared with last March. Private flight departments are also busier.
Dassault has cancelled its 2020 Aviation Professional Conference (APC). The event had been due to take place in June.
“During these times, the health and well-being of our extended Falcon Family is paramount,” said Dassault in a statement. “We’ve come to the inevitable and unfortunate conclusion that this year’s Aviation Professional Conference (APC) scheduled for June 3-4 has been cancelled. At this point, we do not anticipate that we will reschedule this event for 2020.”
It is hard to keep track with the speed at which governments are closing borders today.
It is worth noting that flight crew are often exempt from these bans.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands (CAACI) issued an advisory, following the first case of Covid-19 being detected on the island.
“The Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands (CAACI) has been monitoring the progress of the Coronavirus/COVID 19 pandemic as it has affected many of the countries associated with the Cayman Islands Aircraft Registry. On Friday, 13th March, the Cayman Islands Government confirmed the first case of COVID 19 with a patient at one of its local healthcare institutions on Grand Cayman. We have been assured that measures were put in place to quarantine this patient to reduce the risk of exposure to others.
The CAACI had proactively put measures in place for restricted travel to higher risk countries in order to protect our staff and business partners. We are also following Cayman Islands Government directives on limiting all non‐essential travel; however, we are committed to providing regulatory oversight to our stakeholders. In this regard we are actively working to provide required audit support remotely and on a case‐by‐case review will arrange a physical visit when it is feasible to support your ongoing operations.
We will continue to monitor this situation daily and make adjustments as necessary to support our valuable clients.
We are also cognizant that many of our clients are working from altered arrangements, whether it be remotely away from traditional offices or on shifts and team; we encourage you to reach out to your primary CAACI representative to share alternative contact details. Likewise, the CAACI staff members will share any additional contacts that you may need. Individual staff emails will continue to be monitored as normal and can be your first line of establishing contact. Additionally you can use firstname.lastname@example.org, which will be routed to the appropriate staff member.
We would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your teams continued health as we progress
through these unprecedented challenges over the months to come.”
Speaking exclusively to Corporate Jet Investor, WINGX managing director Richard Koe said that since March 13 there had been a big increase in business aviation activity between Europe and China (including Hong Kong). Koe attributes the rise to Europe closing its borders, and airlines reducing flights.
Koe said that Switzerland and the UK had seen the biggest increases in flights, especially departures from Geneva Airport and London Luton Airport.
Willis Towers Watson, the global advisory company, has launched a new business aviation community group called “A Class”, which it says will deliver data, knowledge and solutions to its business aviation clients.
In a release, John Rooley, CEO Global Aerospace at Willis Towers Watson said “As business aviation clients come to terms with the unprecedented risks associated with the Coronavirus pandemic, Willis Towers Watson Global Aerospace is dedicated to supporting them beyond the scope of the traditional insurance transaction. By combining data analytics with a greater understanding of the industry risk landscape and insurance market trends, A Class is a key solution to enable business aviation clients to mitigate risks and maintain their operations in today’s market. Today’s announcement continues to demonstrate our leadership in the aviation sector.”
A spokesperson for the Hong Kong Business Aviation Centre (HKBAC) told Corporate Jet Investor that yesterday was its busiest day on record for business aircraft movements.
Overall, there has been a 50% increase in movements in March, versus movements in February. HKBAC says that is receiving three times the normal amount of enquiries that it would at this time of the year, but cautions that it is already operating at close to capacity.
Jack Gilchrist, founder of Gilchrist Aviation, has an update on the FAA filing window in Oklahoma City. The FAA is temporarily allowing some digital submissions but is no only collecting Temporary Certificates of Registration twice a day. This will slow down aircraft transactions slightly – although demand has also dropped significantly.
CJI: What are the changes?
Jack Gilchrist: Effective as of March 18 at 9:30 a.m. CDT, the FAA Registry has closed the “filing window” in the Public Documents Room. Rather than filing documents in real time through the filing window under the ordinary procedure, the FAA has placed drop boxes near the Public Documents Room to allow the continued submission of documents to the Registry.
Priority submissions, including imports, exports, and submissions needing a Temporary Certificate of Registration (“flywire”) will be collected by Registry staff hourly. Submissions which do not qualify for priority processing will be collected twice daily. If a closing consists only of digitally signed documents, and no document exceeds twenty pages, the FAA is temporarily allowing digital submission of those documents by Public Documents Room licensees, including Gilchrist Aviation Law.
CJI: What is the impact?
Jack Gilchrist: Due to the delay between delivering documents to the FAA for processing and the receipt of the documents by the FAA, we are not able to issue legal opinions immediately at or immediately following filing as we customarily do. To alleviate the uncertainty introduced by the Registry’s temporary procedures, we will provide a written confirmation of the time all documents were deposited with the FAA for processing. Once the deposited documents have been received by the FAA and we are able to verify the time of the FAA file stamp, we will then proceed to issue our filing legal opinion. We expect the delay between depositing documents and confirmation of their filing to range between several hours and one business day. We will know more as the FAA works out this new, temporary procedure.
CJI: What to expect?
Jack Gilchrist: As a result of the Registry collecting priority submissions hourly rather than immediately upon submission, together with additional delays introduced by the temporary procedure, we anticipate longer than usual wait times in receiving Temporary Certificates of Registration and export confirmation wires.
The Financial Times reports record Hong Kong business aircraft traffic as Asian owners and charter customers fly home to avoid travel bans
The FT says Hong Kong airport is running out of space for jets