SaxonAir grows its fleet and its green goals


UK charter and aviation services provider SaxonAir is growing its operations with the addition of four light jets plus a new base at London Biggin Hill Airport to meet booming demand for business aviation from new and existing clients. The expansion comes alongside plans to reduce its carbon footprint in a bid to reach net-zero by the end of the decade.

The new aircraft in the company’s managed fleet include: three Bombardier Learjets – one 40, one 45 and one 75 – and a Cessna Citation CJ1. They join two Embraer Phenom 300s. SaxonAir’s helicopter fleet was boosted in December 2021 with an order for a new Leonardo AW109SP Grand New helicopter, via UK distributor Sloane Helicopters. The latest acquisition joins three new AW119s – the first of its type to be registered in the UK when they joined SaxonAir’s rotary fleet last April.

SaxonAir CEO Alex Durand told a press meeting at London Biggin Hill Airport last week: “We have a set of aircraft that are really well-suited for people new to the industry, who are working out the limitations of airline infrastructure. Charter really is the only way to get around – the only way to do your business and to see your friends and family.”

While Brexit may have been challenging, but the pandemic also saw business aviation “emerge as hero” in getting people home when the airlines stopped flying and enabling commerce to continue, said Durand. The light jet category has seen the biggest growth in charter, up 30% from the pre-pandemic winter period and bolstered by newcomers to business aviation. Business travellers were also expected to return to private aviation in bigger numbers, as Zoom calls are replaced by face-to-face meetings.

But supply problems could prove frustrating. “We are seeing an awful lot of people now looking to get into it [business aviation],” Durand told Corporate Jet Investor. “But the supply side is still extremely hard. If you are interested in buying an aircraft, you can’t get a pre-owned and you can’t get a new one. New production has not increased efficiently.” The new aircraft sourced by SaxonAir were on a 13-month lead time and the whole of 2022 is sold out. “The only difficulty is if you can’t access aircraft there’s a danger you’ll lose interest. These people [new entrants] are not that patient.”

The Covid crisis led SaxonAir to re-evaluate demand for its services and plan the recovery in business aviation, he said. It now offers from four-seat to eight-seat aircraft. said Durand. The company’s Biggin Hill base is in partnership with Sovereign Business Jets. Durand also believed more could be done to attract younger people into business aviation.

“Most people who go to school don’t know what an aviation career looks like – other than being a pilot or flight engineer,” he said. But there are many jobs arise in all the support industries with on-the-job training. The company is investigating accrediting that training to give a highly professional people the qualifications they deserve. SaxonAir is also undertaking its own training on aviation specific skills.

Meanwhile, SaxonAir continues to target reductions in its carbon emissions as part of its objective to reach net-zero carbon target by 2030. The company has signed up to the UK government’s UK Business Climate Hub, which aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2030.

Also, last year the company’s Klyne Business Aviation Centre at Norwich Airport installed electric car charging points and a lift-sharing scheme for its 50-plus employees. SaxonAir has also teamed up with emissions partner Gone West to plant trees in the UK for every business jet and helicopter flight operated. “Offsetting gets a lot of negative criticism, but it is what we can do,” said Durand. SaxonAir plans to introduce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) at its Norwich airport base. The company is also studying for electric and hybrid electric vehicles.

Growing interest in sustainable aviation was confirmed by Aoife O’Sullivan Air Law Firm partner and British Business and General Aviation Association (BBGA) chair. “The money behind the money, the bond investors, the big funds who come in and finance the banks who then finance the aircraft, those guys are demanding a sustainability element to every investment they are doing right now. It’s becoming endemic across the investment community,” said O’Sullivan.

This was motivated not solely the need to combat climate change and the need to be seen to take action. Younger buyers coming in to the private jet sector demand consideration of sustainability, one of the big fund investors based in France told O’Sullivan. “The next generation is not interested in working with an old cart horse – not taking account of sustainability,” the unnamed source told her. “He said looking to the future, we have to [become more sustainable as an industry].”

Meanwhile, O’Sullivan experienced probably the busiest ever January in her career, as buyers scrambled to buy business jets – sometimes without pre-purchase inspections. “As a lawyer, that is a bad idea and something we will be dealing with in six months’ time,” said O’Sullivan.

Demand for jet purchases, is expected to taper off at the end of last year has continued, driven mainly by the US market, she said. O’Sullivan believed demand would begin to level out in the summer.


SaxonAir fleet growth – at a glance

Four light jets

  1. *Bombardier Learjet 40
  2. *Bombardier Learjet 45
  3. *Bombardier Learjet 75
  4. *Cessna Citation CJ1

Above: Alex Durand, SaxonAir CEO, said: “We have a set of aircraft that are really well-suited for people new to the industry.  Top: Two Phenom 300s, part of SaxonAir’s managed fleet, were on display at Biggin Hill Airport last Tuesday, February 1st 2022.