The U.S. business jet charter market is set to continue its recovery next year, according to projections online charter portal Avinode released this week at NBAA 2014. It predicts 3.5-percent year-over-year growth in charter flights in the U.S. next year. By U.S. region, the South is expected to see gains of 4 percent; West, 3.6 percent; Northeast, 3.3 percent; and Midwest, 2.5 percent.
"This year, the U.S. charter market has performed extraordinarily well, demonstrating its highest annual levels of business jet travel since the financial crisis of 2008," said Avinode CEO Niklas Berg. "We expect that by the end of this year the U.S. will see its highest annual levels of business jet travel for at least six years. New business models are emerging, more aircraft are being purchased and venture capital is flowing back into the market."
Trading conditions in Europe remain less rosy, according to Avinode. "After six years of decline, we expect the European charter market to finally move back into the black next year, with 1.6 percent more flights," said Berg. "This aggregate figure reflects a clear divide between improving conditions in the North and ongoing challenges in the South, plus ongoing uncertainty caused by geopolitical issues between Russia and the Ukraine. The region will also take longer than the U.S. to return to its pre-recession levels."
Flight operations support group Nexus announced the acquisition of aviation risk management and safety audit provider Wyvern Consulting from online charter portal Avinode. In an October 22 announcement, the company also confirmed the appointment of the following three business aviation veterans to Wyvern's board: former NetJets executive Vincent Santulli, former Beechcraft executive Shawn Vick and former FAA associate administrator Nick Sabatini. Wyvern CEO Art Dawley, an experienced corporate pilot and flight department manager, also has joined the board.
Avinode, which sold the company for an undisclosed sum, will continue to provide technological support for its former subsidiary and is retaining control of Wyvern's pilot and aircraft data division. The Wyvern charter operator ratings, Wyvern Wingman and Wyvern Registered audits will be promoted by Nexus and will continue to be available through the Avinode Marketplace.
In addition to its flight operations centers in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, Nexus now has an East African base in Rwanda. The group also has partnerships with FlightSafety International, security specialist FAM International and consultants MAZ Aviation Group.
Airbus Helicopters received EASA certification for its upgraded EC135T3/P3 light twin, a model that was announced at Heli-Expo last year. Powered by a pair of Turbomeca Arrius 2B2 Plus (T3) or Pratt & Whitney Canada PW206B3 (P3) turboshafts, the new version of the EC135 offers 440 pounds more payload in hot-and-high conditions.
Compared with the previous version, it also performs better at sea level, allowing up to 150 pounds more payload, according to the manufacturer. Notable technical improvements include a larger main rotor for more lift and lateral air inlets for greater efficiency. The cockpit has a Garmin GTN 750 avionics suite. Previous EC135 variants, 1,200 of which are in service worldwide, can be retrofitted to the new T3/P3 standard.
Meanwhile, the EC225e is in flight-test, an Airbus Helicopters spokesperson confirmed to AIN. Thanks to more powerful Makila 2B engines, the upgraded medium twin will offer a 300-nm radius of action with 10 passengers. The first EC225e delivery is planned for mid-2016, and lessor LCI is the launch customer.
Indian lawmakers are considering a proposal by the country's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) that would revoke the commercial licenses of nonscheduled operator permit (NSOP) holders with fewer than three aircraft available for charter. Affected NSOPs that do not augment their fleet to at least three aircraft within one year will have to operate in the private category, depriving them of permission to offer charters. India's Business Aircraft Operators Association (BAOA) sees the proposal as "a kneejerk reaction" to the DGCA's shortage of flight observation inspectors (FOIs) and its difficulties in recruiting more of them. The process of registering private aircraft owners as NSOPs requires the services of an FOI. This scarcity of FOIs is also hindering India's compliance with an FAA requirement that would help restore the country's safety ranking to Category 1.
According to the DGCA, most NSOPs are running limited charter operations and in reality fall under the general aviation (privately owned) category. Aircraft importation duty costs private companies 20 percent, while NSOPs pay only 3 percent. "This imbalance is creating problems. Private owners register under NSOPs that in turn require FOIs, which are not easily available. We are asking for rationalization in the tax structure that will charge both categories the same duty," BAOA president Rohit Kapur told AIN.
The issue could be overcome, said Kapur, if aircraft management companies are permitted to function in India. Of the 120 NSOP holders operating in India, 93 own a combined 147 aircraft and just 27 own more than three aircraft each.