As the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the US approaches 150,000, the largest total worldwide, Corporate Jet Investor’s live Covid-19 blog continues to bring you news and views from business aviation.
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“While other aspects of business have slowed down,” says James Person, senior director, global business development, ViaSat, “the one thing that hasn’t changed is that people still want to stay connected when they fly. That goes for our government, commercial or business aviation customers.”
Person said the company’s private operators had slowed down significantly, but that its charter operators have proved to be “bright spots” in recent weeks. “We have still been able to provide the services to people who are choosing to move their families by charter.”
ViaSat has an exemption to shut down and continues to operate its 24/7 network operations centre.
It has also made its Ku Advanced Service “more affordable than ever and doubled the performance”, so that operators may use this downtime to install it on their aircraft.
“It is too early to tell whether there has been a surge in demand, but there is definitely steady business in this time. We are still shipping products and putting new operators onto our network,” he said.
UK Government recognises UK Helicopter efforts
UK Chancellor of the Duchy Michael Gove has applauded the efforts of the UK helicopter market in addressing the coronavirus pandemic.
In a daily covid-19 briefing this afternoon, Gove acknowledged the efforts of the RAF and Navy’s helicopters in responding to calls from NHS Trusts.
“We wanted to extend our gratitude to the military and their efforts to combat the coronavirus. Three RAF Puma helicopters are now stationed at Klinoss Barracks, These Pumas are working closely with a Chinook and Wildcat Helicopter based at North Yorkshire to meet requests for assistance from NHS trusts. A second helicopter facility covers the midlands,” Gove said.
Additionally, Gove recognised the efforts of industry consortia in developing masks and ventilators for the NHS – which includes an aviation consortium led by Airbus.
He added: “Orders have been placed by consortia, led by Ford, Airbus, the Formula 1 Racing team, GKN Aerospace and Rolls Royce, and Dyson. And starting this weekend, the first of thousands of new ventilator devices will roll off the production line and be delivered to the NHS for next week.”
Nebraska-based maintenance, repair and overhaul facility Duncan Aviation is utilising its interior design and manufacturing skills to fabricate protective facemasks for local hospitals.
Duncan’s communications manager, Lori Johnson, said the effort began over concerns about the safety of the company’s approximately 2,400 employees.
In addition to supplying masks for employees, “the Lincoln location cut more than 1,000 additional masks,” said Johnson. “These were given to a group of approximately 300 women in Lincoln who volunteered their own skills to the relief effort by sewing the masks together for area hospitals.”
Duncan said it was cutting approximately 100 masks per hour. Half of the initial run of masks will be sent to Bryan Medical Center, with the remainder distributed to other medical facilities in the Lincoln area.
“We’re also exploring production of other items in critical need, such as medical bonnets,” she added. “This in indicative of the creativity, compassion and initiative found in our team members. We all feel it is the least we can do during this uncertain time.”
Echo Aviation Leasing highlights the role of charter during the coronavirus pandemic
Today, Canadian lessor Echo Aviation Leasing released a statement highlighting the important role of both general aviation and charter flights during the global coronavirus pandemic.
You can read the full statement below:
It might be difficult to find some positive out of the past few weeks, but I believe it has highlighted the economic and social importance of general aviation in difficult times. When the virus started spreading outside of China in mid-January, and airlines began to reduce flights frequency due to traveler’s increased concerns with flying commercially, we figured we would see a spike in demand for chartered aircraft. Starting to receive a tremendous amount of inquiries for charter for our broad network of customers, Echo adjusted the product offering of our Sales & Acquisition team to do its part during this global pandemic. We have been able to secured many chartered flights for customers who wanted to safely fly their staff and families to their final destination.
After a series of last-minute repatriation flights in March, we are now seeing a decline in this type of activity. It started with authorities raising concerns with traveling as a whole, then many countries began to close their borders to foreigners and aircraft owners deciding to ground their aircraft over the increasing concern of being stuck oversees and not being able to return home and/or the increasing risk of charter customers and crew members infecting their aircraft.
Our Sales & Acquisitions team continues to work on live transactions, but we have lowered our forecast for ‘new sales originations’ for this year a result of the uncertainty in future developments with this pandemic and the huge drops in the stock markets. We anticipate low demand for business travel needs over the next quarter and buyers postponing their aircraft acquisition until the markets bounce back and global economy stabilizes. Another obvious reason for this expected downturn is the lack of physical access to aircraft in order to conduct viewings and physical pre-purchase inspections and repositioning flights as a result of travel restrictions.
Although these events will directly lead to a decrease in aircraft acquisition financing opportunities for Echo, we forecast it will be partially offset by the rise of request for aircraft refinancing. Since March, we have seen many central banks take economic measures in an effort to offset the negative impacts of this global pandemic and as a result, interest rate have been rapidly lowered. We are of the opinion that there has never been a better time for owners to refinance their aircraft, to turn some of the equity they have built up in their aircraft into cash or to negotiate a new financing deals to benefit from the reduced interest rates. Refinancing transactions are going to keep us busy in the next 3 to 6 months, as owners will want to see what the market has to offer today.
Overall, Echo is staying positive and continues to strategize on new initiatives and opportunities for the general aviation industry despite the down effects from COVID-19. We all have to do our part, by positively contributing new ideas, to help in mitigating the impact of this virus on our vital industry.
JSSI cuts costs for customers
Jet Support Services Inc. (JSSI) is offering extended payment terms and reduced minimum flight hour invoices for operator customers to cut costs for customers during the pandemic.
The announcement says: “During these unprecedented and difficult times, we recognize the unique set of challenges every business is facing. As an organization, we at JSSI remain committed to providing world-class service and support to our customers and valued members of the business aviation community.”
Effective immediately, JSSI has:
– Suspended all annual make and model rate increases through June 30, 2020.
– Implemented a 25% reduction on annual minimum flight hour invoices paid net 30 days, OR;
– Extended payment terms to 90 days on annual minimum flight hour invoices in lieu of the 25% reduction. For those paying minimums each month the invoice will be reduced by 25%.
– For operators using aircraft for rescue flights related to COVID-19, those hours along with additional credits will be applied to the account.
For its Broker customers, JSSI has developed new financial tools for dealers to help better organise and monitor their inventory during the pandemic.
“For aircraft in your inventory without engine coverage, we have designed a dealer specific product to not only help cash flow but also provide peace of mind for unforeseen engine failures during this period.”
Stobart Jet Centre temporarily closes
London Southend Airport-based operator Stobart Jet Centre closed its doors on March 27th until further notice due to the impact of coronavirus on commercial and business aviation travel.
From the April 1st, the Stobart Jet Centre will pause all operations to protect their staff and allowing them to self isolate during the pandemic. The company will remain closed for the entire month of April and will be subject to reopening following a review in May.
Fiona Langton, MD of Stobart Jet Centre, said: “The welfare of my employees is my highest priority right now, as we are a small team, I have taken the responsible decision at this time to put their personal health and well -being, above current business operations. We whole heartily expect operations to continue in the future and will consistently ensure our dedicated clients and stake holders are updated with any changes to this decision as soon as clarity is provided.
“The entire industry is facing uncertain times; however, we are in a strong position to return to continue business when safe to do so. We are working with London Southend Airport, DfT [Department for Transport] and PHE [Public Health England] to ensure we have the most up-to-date information to take the necessary steps as the situation continues to develop and shall continue to do so throughout the closure.”
Apertus ready to donate masks to aid Covid-19 relief
Private jet charter provider Apertus is ready to donate thousands of masks to communities around the world and is looking for other business jet companies to help distribute them.
Ringo Fan, MD of Apertus wrote in a LinkedIn post: “If your #businessjet coming by HK in the coming weeks, you can help us distribute them to wherever it is going next! Let us know! Together, we #fightcoronavirus !!”
FAA issues new wave of Covid-19 guidance
Following the FAA’s air medical certificate exemptions this week, it has issued updated guidance on drug and alcohol testing, air transport restrictions and closures and restrictions.
Firstly, the FAA has updated its drug testing policy to update remote testing methods during the coronavirus pandemic.
New guidance for states, localities, and territories has been issued which implements, or may consider implementing, quarantine, travel restrictions and screening requirements on people entering the US from certain locations.
Finally, the FAA has issued new guidance for airport sponsors and restricting airport access at federally-funded airports. The FAA wants airport sponsors to closely review and understand what the guidance allows them to do, what they cannot do and what they should consider before taking any action. In any instance, the FAA must be notified and approve any airport closure.
At 11am EDT, March 31st, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) will host a free live webinar on maintaining flight department readiness during the spread of Covid-19. The disease has raised several challenges for business aviation, especially for operators, who have to ensure short-notice flights.
The webinar will cover how to ensure crews are safe, fit for duty and ready to fly on a continuing basis, as well as how to effectively create “a decision tree” or a crew-scheduling plan.
Moderator Jo Damato, Vice President, Educational Strategy and Workforce Development, NBAA, will be joined by panellists Brad Self, chief pilot, VF Corporation and James Stone, director, Aviation Services, Aflac, Inc.
Click here to register.
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