U.S. charter firm bases GVs in Japan

 - March 29, 2007, 11:31 AM

After many months of negotiations with FAA and Japanese aviation officials, Van Nuys, Calif.-based charter firm The Air Group has succeeded in its long-time quest to base aircraft (initially two Gulfstream Vs) at Haneda Airport in Tokyo.

The Air Group said the achievement resulted from a partnership with Tokyo-based Marubeni Aerospace, recruited as the company’s exclusive charter marketing and advertising agent, and with Houston-based Universal Weather & Aviation and Japan’s IASS, both of which will provide handling, fueling and permits.

The recent easing of advance notice requirements for business aircraft landings in Japan from 10 days to three days contributed to The Air Group’s success. It also helped that Tokyo-based companies own the two Haneda-based GVs.

“This is the first time that American and Japanese companies have come together to base charter aircraft on Japanese soil,” said The Air Group chairman Jon Winthrop. The Air Group will operate the GVs on behalf of their owners under both Part 91 and 135. There is no FBO at Haneda, but IASS has arranged hangarage for the Gulfstreams. A FAR Part 145-approved foreign repair station headquartered in Sendai will maintain the airplanes.

The hourly charter rate of $8,625 is between $1,000 and $1,500 more per hour than the company’s U.S.-based GVs because the costs to operate, advertise and base aircraft in Japan run much higher than the comparable services in the U.S., Winthrop said.

Unlike most of the other Air Group flight crews, who are employees of the management company, the pilots and flight attendants for the Japan-based Gulfstreams work for the companies that own the aircraft. U.S. nationals crew one of the GVs and a Japanese co-captain and flight attendant are among the crew of
the other GV. The Japanese-national crewmembers have “undergone The Air Group orientation and training programs,” said the company’s v-p and director of operations, Mark Shea. “Everything about the operation of these aircraft will be at the same high standards of performance we maintain for every branch office.”
Winthrop said each of the GVs will probably log about 400 hours a year, about half of which the company expects will be charter.

Early next year, Nagoya Komaki Airport is scheduled to open for business aircraft. Authorities have not yet set landing fees but operators expect them to be lower than those levied at Haneda. Also, access should be easier. Currently, business jets intending to use Haneda initially to clear customs must arrive between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.