Jet Edge International, a charter/management and maintenance firm based in Van Nuys, Calif., has formed a partnership with Asia Jet, a charter provider that was launched in 2008 in Hong Kong. Under the partnership, Jet Edge is the exclusive operator of Asia Jet N-registered charter flights.
The partnership between Jet Edge and Asia Jet is unlike the joint ventures that many U.S. charter operators have formed with China-based charter companies, according to Jet Edge president Bill Papariella, because Asia Jet has purchased a stake in Jet Edge. “Joint ventures are great until something goes wrong,” he explained. “I wanted them to share in the AOC [air operator certificate]. They should feel some responsibility for it. We ended up selling less than 10 percent [of the company], but enough to make it matter to them.” He added that the agreement enabled Jet Edge to move operational personnel to Hong Kong, which makes the partnership feel more “like it’s one company.”
The Jet Edge/Asia Jet partnership is currently operating four Gulfstreams–a GIV-SP, G300 and two G200s. “The airplanes are pretty much sold out every month,” Papariella said, and are each averaging about 40 hours a month. “With all the restrictions in China, 40 hours there is like 60 here.”
Although it is difficult to find FAA-certified pilots to work in Asia, Jet Edge has been able to draw from American Gulfstream pilots who are already based in China. As Jet Edge moves more aircraft into the Asia Jet partnership, finding crew will continue to be a challenge, especially for non-Gulfstream types. The next airplane to join the N-registered Asia Jet fleet will be a Challenger 605. Each airplane in China is staffed with four pilots, and the partnership employs a chief pilot, director of maintenance and 14 support staffers, overseen by local CEO Mike Walsh.
Papariella sees plenty of opportunity in Asia, and not just in China. “It’s a pretty interesting market,” he said, but space for business aviation in Hong Kong is limited. So Jet Edge is looking at expansion opportunities in the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore. “Singapore has been really aggressive trying to attract our airplanes,” he said.
China’s general aviation infrastructure is improving, and Papariella expects in five years that companies like Jet Edge will have an easier time obtaining a Chinese AOC and flying internal flights inside China. “The owner of Asia Jet is a Chinese citizen,” he said, “and we’re looking at [a China AOC]. We work well with the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department and all other civil aviation [regulators in China]. It’s clear that the Hong Kong government wants to promote general aviation. And we think there’s a need.”
Jet Edge added a net 15 aircraft to its fleet last year and recently completed a series B funding round, raising $1.4 million to expand the fleet and the company infrastructure. Jet Edge will be adding three new Gulfstream G280s as well, with the first delivery planned for the second quarter of this year.