PlaneSense plots fleet growth selectively

 - September 26, 2007, 8:08 AM

PlaneSense is the world’s largest operator of PC-12s and, according to its president and CEO, George Antoniadis, it intends to hold the same ranking among SPn operators. The company thought long and hard about how to develop its fleet to build on the success achieved by the Swiss-built turboprop single.

Antoniadis told AIN that PlaneSense–which is operated by his Alpha Flying company–also considered expanding its fleet with Piaggio Avanti II twin turboprops or an alternative light jet such as the Cessna Citation CJ3. “But we wanted to have the largest cabin in the class, operating economics that beat others in the class and exceptional short-field performance,” he explained. He added that the operator had also been impressed by Embraer’s new Phenom 300 light jet but found that this didn’t fit the runway requirements. Many of PlaneSense’s clients want to be able to fly in and out of restrictive private landing strips.

PlaneSense currently puts about 900 hours per year on each of its PC-12s and expects its SPns annually to fly about the same amount. It is currently logging some 2,500 flights per month with the PC-12s in a wide spectrum of missions spanning 50 to 2,500 nm.

[Grob’s unofficial sister company, ExecuJet, was previously distributor for the PC-12, but Pilatus ended this relationship, seeing a conflict of interest. The deal with PlaneSense seems to suggest that the SPn can be complementary to the PC-12, as ExecuJet had always contended. ExecuJet and Grob have a common CEO in Niall Olver but the company’s other shareholders are different. However, ExecuJet has become involved in marketing and product support for the SPn.–Ed.]

Antoniadis said that PlaneSense makes a high priority of minimizing the use of supplemental charter capacity. He claimed that some fractional providers operate as much as 20 percent of their services with chartered aircraft and said that PlaneSense resorts to this for a small (“single-digit”) portion of its operations. “Customers have told us that they really don’t like flying in aircraft other than the ones they have paid for, so we have a larger core fleet to avoid this,” he said.

At press time, PlaneSense was preparing to unveil its share purchase prices and monthly management fees for the new SPn fleet. It might unveil the hourly operating charges at a later date because it is still processing the aircraft’s anticipated operating data.

Antoniadis said that he would like to expand PlaneSense geographically but added that the company has taken a conservative approach to growth out of concern not to compromise service standards. He added that he sees potential to take the program into Europe, but only if the Continent introduces an equivalent set of quasi-private operating rules comparable to the U.S. Part 91K.