Air charter operator VistaJet, which has a fixed-wing fleet of large-cabin Bombardier jets, has been “testing” short-distance point-to-point service with an AgustaWestland AW109 GrandNew over the past year. The helicopter is based in St. Moritz and has been used to fly customers on short hops to such places as Milan, Geneva, Munich and Monte Carlo, as well as for heli-skiing excursions in the Swiss Alps.
“Since we don’t have light jets here at VistaJet, we wanted an aircraft that could cover shorter trips,” VistaJet founder and chairman Thomas Flohr told AIN. “For us, the best aircraft actually turned out to be a helicopter.” But not just any helicopter. “It had to have two engines for safety, as well as wheels, which are required to operate at many airports in Italy. The AW109 met our needs,” he said.
Over the past year, VistaJet’s helicopter has logged about 150 hours, with the average passenger trip lasting approximately 40 minutes. Flohr said he has been pleased with the AW109 and is considering adding more, noting London and Moscow specifically as possible future helicopter bases for VistaJet.