Encompass Aviation, which received its FAA Part 135 certificate for intra-state charter flights in March, has subleased all 12 of Surf Air’s PC-12NGs and assumed the “all-you-can-fly” company’s aircraft operations and management in California, Encompass president and CEO Steve Harfst told AIN. As part of the move, Surf Air surrendered its Part 135 certificate and is now solely using third-party charter operators for all of its bases, which include Las Vegas, Dallas and the UK.
Hawthorne-based Encompass “quietly” took over Surf Air’s more than 70 daily weekday flights in California in May, and Harfst is only speaking about the deal now that the transition has been fully completed. Encompass has retained all of Surf Air’s more than 60 pilots and its operating structure, but has added a safety director position and is in the process of implementing a safety management system, said Harfst, who previously was the president and CEO at charter airline USA 3000 and a former U.S. Navy F-14 pilot.
Harfst has embraced Encompass’s role as a stepping stone for pilots aiming to fly at the major airlines. Each PC-12 is crewed by two pilots, and SICs are typically captain rated in the turboprop single and transitioned into the left seat after about a year, he said.
“Our pilots fly an average of 82.5 hours per month, so it doesn’t take them long to meet the 1,500-hour minimum requirement to fly at a Part 121 operator,” Harfst noted, adding that Encompass pilots fly between 14 and 17 days per month.
The company’s pilot training is done with in-house instructors, though Encompass does use FlightSafety International’s PC-12 simulators in Houston, he said. Maintenance is also done in-house at the company’s base in Hawthorne overnight during fleet downtime.
Encompass plans to focus on commercial aviation operations and management, but has no intentions of offering traditional on-demand charter flights. The company has plans beyond just Surf Air, though, Harfst said. Encompass is working to upgrade its Part 135 certificate to allow inter-state flying and is talking to other new-model business aviation travel services companies about managing and operating their fleets.