Indian charter firm predicts bizav growth

 - January 26, 2007, 11:18 AM

Indian executive charter firm Deccan Aviation, based in Bangalore, is evaluating aircraft from Gulfstream, Bombardier and Cessna with a view to adding up to 15 jets to its fleet over the next five years. The firm already has nine helicopters and a pair of Pilatus PC-12 turboprops, but now needs jet equipment to meet rising demand in India’s fast-growing economy.

In the short term, Deccan may opt to lease four jets to provide capacity during the order backlog period for new business aircraft. Reports in the Indian general press have suggested that the company is specifically looking at the Learjet 45 and 60, the Citation Excel and the Gulfstream 100 and 200, but a spokesman for the company did not respond to a request to confirm which types are on its short list.

Deccan Aviation, founded in 1997 as a division of the Indian regional airline Air Deccan, currently focuses on helicopter charters for both business and tourist clients. It also does work for India’s offshore industries and provides transportation for medical evacuations.

The Emerging Market
Now it is receiving a growing number of requests for corporate charters requiring larger fixed-wing types suitable for longer flights. Many of these clients are major foreign companies with business interests in India. Existing western corporate clients include Nestle, Volvo, Bank of America, General Electric and Sun Micro Systems.
The company’s PC-12s currently charter for just under $1,300 per flight hour.

Deccan Aviation also offers a selection of Bell helicopters (the 206B3 Jet-Ranger, 206L3 LongRanger and 407), as well as the Eurocopter AS 355F Twin Squirrel. These are available for rates of between $900 and $1,400 per hour.

Earlier this year, Deccan established India’s first factory-authorized customer service center for Bell helicopters. This operates from a new workshop at Bangalore’s Jakkur Airport under the name Deccan Technical Services.

Deccan recently entered new joint ventures with undisclosed operators in Bhutan and Sri Lanka. It has also just won an offshore support contract from Cairn Energy, as well as new geophysical survey work for Rio Tinto, De Beers and NGRI.

According to David Macdonald, executive charter director with charter broker Air Partner International, there is significant potential for business aviation growth in India. The UK-based group opened an office in the country earlier this year, under the direction of Jet Airways pilot Captain Karan Singh.

“It is a huge country with almost no business aviation, despite there being an increasingly large population of wealthy people,” Macdonald told AIN. “Many of the rich still travel largely by train and airline and it is hard to say how quickly they will switch to using business aircraft.”

That said, Singh is already tapping demand for midsize jets. According to Air Partner, there is also a requirement for aircraft with intercontinental range to handle trips beyond the Indian subcontinent.

In Macdonald’s opinion, India will need additional air transport industry regulation to stimulate the required capacity for business aviation to grow. “It needs to be possible for there to be business aircraft under management to make more equipment available for charter,” he commented. “But we definitely will see growth in India.”