ExecuJet Aviation extends its reach with Grob SPn program

 - October 2, 2006, 10:34 AM

ExecuJet Aviation Group has successfully pursued its ambitions of becoming a truly global business aviation services group while maintaining a relatively low profile compared with rivals such as Jet Aviation. It has accomplished much of its expansion in South Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Australia in close tandem with its long-term partner, Bombardier Aerospace, for which it now distributes its business aircraft in some 35 countries. However, it is ExecuJet’s new association with Grob that is set to take it right into the world’s dominant business aviation market: North America.

Grob has selected ExecuJet as the exclusive worldwide sales distributor and product support provider for the SPn Utility Jet, which can seat up to nine passengers but will be more commonly configured for six. This will require ExecuJet to establish some credible infrastructure in North America, starting with a sales force and followed–by the time the aircraft enters service, planned for the end of the first quarter of 2007–with maintenance and parts distribution capability. ExecuJet CEO Niall Olver represents a consortium of investors in the SPn program.

As of early last month, ExecuJet was “evaluating strategic opportunities” in North America, having been approached by “several substantial players” that would individually be able to provide “blanket coverage” for the Grob SPn sales and product support roles. Olver told AIN that he had been pleasantly surprised by the stature of some of the firms that had responded to the launch of the new aircraft in June, but he emphasized that ExecuJet has not ruled out opting for a network of individual sales and support operations across North America, rather than choosing a single provider.

ExecuJet has plenty of experience building business aviation operations around the world. It started life as part of a Swiss-based holding company in 1991 and since 1994 has been firmly established from a corporate base in Zurich, Switzerland. Since then it has also established operations in Australia, Denmark, Germany, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In addition to selling and supporting Bombardier aircraft, ExecuJet also operates 74 aircraft around the world. All but a few of these are under management contracts, and about half of them are available on the charter market. The company now holds commercial air operator’s certificates in Australia, Denmark, Germany, Mexico, South Africa, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.

To accommodate its customers’ preferences, the company will often reposition certain aircraft to other parts of the world and currently has a Challenger 604 based in Singapore and a Challenger 300 in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. This fall, it intends to add three more aircraft to its managed fleet–a Learjet 60 to be based in Kiev and a couple of Challenger 604s that will operate out of Moscow.

In February, Bombardier named ExecuJet the exclusive German distributor for the Challenger 300 and Learjets. This followed last year’s acquisition of Frankfurt-based charter operator Jet Connection, which is now to have its aircraft and facilities rebranded under the ExecuJet umbrella. Jet Connection founder Rainer Wenz has been appointed ExecuJet’s European sales and marketing director. Patrick Kleu is the new managing director of ExecuJet Europe.

New European FBOs Planned

ExecuJet now has plans to establish full-service FBOs at both Berlin Schoenefeld Airport (where the Lufthansa Bombardier Aviation Services maintenance facility is located) and Frankfurt Airport (where Jet Connection already has offices and hangar space).

It already has aircraft handling operations at its Zurich headquarters (where it bought the former Signature Flight Support/Zimex premises), as well as at Johannesburg Lanseria, Cape Town International, Copenhagen Roskilde and Sydney Kingsford Smith airports. The company manages its European charter fleet from Zurich.

The group has now sold almost 100 jets from Bombardier’s Learjet, Challenger and Global Express series. It is also the official sales and maintenance representative for the Pilatus PC-12 turboprop single in some 30 countries throughout Africa, Scandinavia and the Middle East. To assist customers with finance and insurance arrangements for aircraft purchases, ExecuJet has an alliance with Swiss-based EJ Capital.

ExecuJet got Bombardier’s blessing before it agreed to be the distributor for the Grob SPn Utility Jet. The company is offering the new aircraft, which promises versatile runway performance, as a replacement for Raytheon’s ubiquitous Beech King Air twin turboprop, but evidently ExecuJet does not view the SPn as a direct competitor for the PC-12.

ExecuJet’s Middle East sales team, based in Dubai, focuses mainly on the Gulf states. It handles the Asia-Pacific region from Sydney and southern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands from Johannesburg. Zurich is its European aircraft sales headquarters, with the Copenhagen office focusing on the Scandinavian countries.

Dubai Service Center Ready To Open

ExecuJet is due to complete construction of a new maintenance facility at Dubai International Airport in the UAE early this month. The facility will be a factory-authorized service center for Bombardier aircraft, and the Canadian airframer holds an undisclosed stake in the venture. The site will also house a major spares distribution center for Bombardier types. Its hangar can house a pair of Global Expresses, as well as two Challengers and two Learjets.

ExecuJet already has maintenance capability in Australia, Denmark, Mexico and South Africa and intends to extend its engineering infrastructure into Germany. In addition to its role in supporting Bombardier types, the company is also certified to work on a variety of Gulfstream, Dassault and Cessna models.

ExecuJet took its first steps in Latin America in Mexico, where it runs a corporate flight department for Cemex. The family-owned business once had five aircraft but has reduced its fleet to a Falcon 900 and a Falcon 2000. ExecuJet holds a Mexican commercial air operator’s certificate, but it does not currently do any charter work in the country. However, it could expand its operation in Central America with the pending arrival of another new aircraft for this operation.