Moshe Yanai, data-storage entrepreneur and aircraft owner-pilot, is seeing the fruits of his labor to establish two widely dispersed on-demand, air-taxi operations: Tel Aviv Executive Helicopters in Israel and Boston Executive Helicopters in Norwood, Mass.
The company operates an Aerospatiale AStar and TwinStar in Israel, and an AStar at Norwood Memorial Airport serving the U.S. Northeast. A TwinStar is scheduled to join the U.S. business soon.
Yanai, who has businesses and homes in the U.S. and Israel, said he saw a need for on-demand helicopter services to “cater specifically to executives” in the northeast U.S. and in Israel. With this vision mind, he formed the two companies in March last year under a plan to simultaneously obtain both FAA and Israeli CAA air-taxi certifications.
The process turned out to take much longer than anticipated, and surprisingly the Israeli approvals were awarded several months before the U.S. approvals. Furthermore, this earlier approval was accomplished despite the fact that at the time the applications were submitted to the CAA there was only one TwinStar and no AStars operating in Israel.
Tel Aviv Executive Helicopters starting commercial flying last October, but Boston Executive Helicopter trips didn’t get under way until this past summer. Operations in both countries are approved for day/night VFR only. Gen. Boaz Peleg (Israeli air force, retired) is in charge of the Israeli service and Christopher Donovan, a former U.S. Army helicopter pilot, is chief pilot for the U.S. operation.
There are “very limited Part 135-like charter operations in Israel,” Donovan told AIN. “So we had to work with the Israel CAA to obtain both type certification as well as air-taxi approval for the AStar.”
The Israeli and the U.S. rotorcraft, purchased used, were updated and outfitted to executive interiors at Oxford Aviation in Maine. Avionics and power-train modifications were made to upgrade the AStars to AS350BA standards. Systems enhancements included air conditioning, radar altimeters, a terrain database for obstacle avoidance and a sand filter (for the Israeli aircraft). In addition, the helicopters were repainted to the company’s designated design.
Port City Air, a part of New Hampshire Helicopters of Portsmouth, N.H., will provide Part 135 maintenance for the U.S. operation. “After more aircraft are added, we will probably hire in-house mechanics,” Donavan said. “We hired a mechanic in Israel and sent him to American Eurocopter and Turbomeca maintenance schools with the objective for him to be U.S. and Israeli certified and a full-time mechanic for the Israel operation.”
With the air-taxi operations finally under way in both countries, Yanai is turning his interests to expanding the Norwood facilities. Donovan said there are plans for a “full-service FBO” with the purchase of an existing hangar and construction of a new hangar on the north end of the airport. “We will offer hangar space for transient parking and tenant leases,” he told AIN.