How did your aviation career begin?
When I was 11 years old I obtained my first balsa glider and spent endless hours adjusting settings and throwing it. It taught me many basic aeronautical design principles at an early age. During my school years I was engrossed in all things aviation including designing, building and test flying many remote-controlled aircraft, and later gliding – much to the consternation of my parents.
I formally started my engineering and flight training in 1989. Once qualified, I then founded my first company, Globaltec, to provide UK Civil Aviation Authority licensed engineering and pilot support services, working with companies such as Marshall Aerospace and Police Aviation Services. I also kept myself in the air as an instructor examiner and test pilot, specialising particularly in high-performance, vintage and ex-military aircraft.
Why did you decide to establish Jet Exchange?
With the experience and contacts I developed through Globaltec, Jet Exchange was the result of a logical progression and business opportunity. By this stage I had command time in commercially-operated business jets, plus some experience in operations management and acquisitions and sales. Over a period of six months my business partner and I secured management contracts on a Cessna Citation CJ1, Pilatus PC-12 and a Dassault Falcon 900. The business in fact established itself before the company did.
The idea behind the name was to develop the acquisition consultancy area, and also allow the clients to be able to move freely between the aircraft types in the fleet.
The European charter market is very crowded and quite fragile. How is your business fairing?
It’s a challenging market and the margins are extremely small. However we work very hard to look after our existing clients, keep our cost base and business risk low, and have no loan liabilities. We are receiving a very healthy number of charter requests, and we are very pleased with the feedback from the brokers.
We started small in 2007, but our bespoke service has seen us build up a very strong reputation for efficiency, reliability and service. That’s helped us to grow to the point we’ve now taken on our own aircraft operator’s certificate with the Bombardier Challenger 604, which gives us charter range to North America and the Middle East. As part of that, we’ve now secured approved carrier status from the US Department of Homeland Security, so it’s now even easier to visit the USA on our aircraft. We built our own AOC from scratch thanks to support from aviation consultancy Total AOC, which gives us further scope to grow.
What are your main challenges?
Every day and on almost every flight, in common with all operators in this sector, there are complex administrative and operational hurdles to clear, all while meeting exactly the schedule our customers need. Bad weather, technical issues, and crew limitations are all routine, but lack of ground parking, slots and increasing costs are increasing the challenge. In addition to that, we are also looking to expand without overstretching our resources, so we maintain the extremely high level of reliability our clients have enjoyed to date.
What are your duties?
It’s almost everything you can think of! I have oversight of all aspects of the business and link together clients, accounts, charter sales, operations, suppliers etc. For the AOC, my prime responsibility is overall safety and the safety culture of everyone in the company.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Working with our expert enthusiastic and professional team – and everyone from clients to brokers to engineering, lawyers, accounts and even the CAA. I also enjoy the problem solving, lateral thinking, designing systems and making everything work efficiently. It’s very satisfying when our team, extended team and the clients are all happy and it’s all running like clockwork. Most of all, I still love flying and being the best pilot I can, every flight.
What are your plans for the company going forward?
In the short term, to secure further aircraft management contracts and develop the acquisition consultancy side of the business. We have well over 5,000h on our PC-12 and subject to content of the new legislation being proposed, we will also look at putting the type onto our AOC.