SONAS Aviation gears up for Irish AOC


Graham Williamson

SONAS Aviation, the new Shannon-based aircraft charter and management company, founded late last year by Graham Williamson, former CEO of TAG Aviation Europe, is just weeks away from acquiring its Irish AOC.

With its first managed aircraft, a Bombardier Challenger 605, to be available for charter on the new EJ-register, Graham will be at Corporate Jet Investor’s London conference next week to meet with financiers and G-registration aircraft operators.

“We are reaching out to owners of corporate jets seeking predictability, stability and continuity in these uncertain times,” says Graham. “The impact of Brexit – deal, no deal, interminable status quo, political uncertainty and its subsequent effects on the aviation community in the United Kingdom is a real and immediate issue.”

SONAS Aviation is duly offering aircraft owners a simple transition for their aircraft to an EASA Operation, allowing free movement in Europe and unfettered traffic rights to the 44 countries covered by EU bilateral agreements, including the USA and Canada.

“Looking at EASA’s newly updated Guidance Notes, it is difficult to predict how aircraft operated, crewed, registered, maintained or managed from the UK will be affected, and this throws up uncertainty regarding importation, free circulation, certification and licensing,” says Graham. “Ireland (with its EJ registry) offers a simple importation and tax environment for owners.  It is a renowned and secure legal jurisdiction for financiers and the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) is committed to developing and growing its already strong aviation sector.”

“Some of the currently fashionable and established European jurisdictions, such as Malta, are struggling to keep up with the volume of aircraft coming onto their registries,” suggests Graham.

An alternative jurisdiction, so close to the UK, with an excellent legal, finance and banking fraternity will add to the EJ appeal, he believes.

New company with established management team

While SONAS Aviation is brand new, behind it sits a management team with decades of aviation experience.

Graham has been joined by Russell Allchorne, former VP Operations at TAG Aviation Europe as the COO, and Keith Brennan, former Post Holder with Eirtech Aviation, as Airworthiness Director. SONAS is supported by the Air Law Firm and its Founding Partner Aoife O’Sullivan, a widely regarded business aviation lawyer.

Leasing model key focus for SONAS

As well as traditional aircraft management, SONAS Aviation will be offering expertise to clients looking to lease, rather than ‘buy’ their corporate jets. “Where better to advocate this growing model than in Ireland, home to many established commercial aircraft leasing companies dedicated to the airline sector,”  highlights Graham.

Operator leases could become the biggest driver in business aviation, especially popular in the large cabin sector, which he will highlight whilst chairing a panel on day two (January 28th) of CJI London ‘Dispelling corporate airliner myths – the cost of operations.’

“A lease offers predictable costs and gives the owner far greater flexibility to upgrade the jet, or change it in six years, just as the airlines do.  It removes the uncertainty of residual values and it is a smart way of financing a depreciating asset,” Graham will highlight.

SONAS Aviation is not seeking to grow into a large aircraft management company.  Rather, it wants to build a close relationship with select clients, build trust and deliver a quality, personal service, maintaining full transparency on costs.

Ahead of its operational start, drawing on lessons learned, SONAS and its primarily Irish team, has created seamless processes for all elements of planning, operations and customer service using harmonised cloud-based systems.

“We are committed to offering a simple and seamless transition for clients.  We will be limited in the number of aircraft we can absorb in the coming months.  First mover advantage is paramount and only those who take control and make the right choice today will be guaranteed continuity of operations, approvals and licences,” Graham concluded.

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