Switzerland’s Comlux The Aviation Group (Booth P718) is highlighting at ABACE 2018 developments that illustrate its expertise in business aircraft services including operations, interior completions, charter, and transactions—capabilities that Richard Gaona, executive chairman and CEO, is eager to offer on this side of the world. “There is a lot of business to be done in China, and we want to be part of it,” Gaona said, expanding on what his company brings to the market.
Spotlighting the company's operational capabilities, on the eve of the show Gaona announced that Fly Comlux, the Group’s operations and management services division, has received an air operator certificate (AOC) from the San Marino Aircraft Registry and has registered its first aircraft, a Challenger 604, under the new approval. Plans for the San Marino registry were announced at EBACE last year.
“We are trying to listen to our clients and offer more options and solutions,” said Gaona, “and the request is, ‘Go to San Marino.’”
San Marino’s registry is based on ICAO standards, which provide more flexibility in crewing the aircraft vis-à-vis type ratings than do EASA or FAA registries, for example. It’s also “very attractive in terms of cost, [both] getting an AOC, and then operating an aircraft when licensed,” said Gaona.
Fly Comlux also holds AOCs from Aruba, Kazakhstan, and Malta.
Also in the spotlight are the two widebody aircraft Comlux operates for charter: the Crystal AirCruises Boeing 777 Crystal Skye, which entered service last year; and its own BBJ 767-200ER. “They’re two complementary aircraft,” Gaona said.
The 777 is laid out in an all-first class configuration with 88 seats and 19 hours of endurance. The arrangement makes it ideal for large groups of colleagues traveling together, and this summer it will transport football teams for the World Cup in Russia. “Every seat is the same, so when you transport a group, you don’t have to worry who is seated where,” Gaona noted.
The 63-passenger 767 features a VVIP cabin and stateroom in the front of the aircraft and business and premium economy seating in the rear, ideal for heads of state and their delegations. The Boeing has been “extremely busy in the first quarter of this year,” said Gaona. It flew 640 hours last year, and this March alone racked up 80 hours.
Also known for its cabin completions capabilities, Gaona noted that Comlux Completions, the company’s U.S. facility, in September will receive a green BBJ Max 8 and in December an ACJneo, both to be the first VVIP completions on the new-generation jets. The company this month is delivering a BBJ.
The completion center also provides maintenance, with two BBJs under service contracts, and is quickly running out of this year’s slots for maintenance, Gaona said. Reflecting the growth, the company is enhancing its exec-liner MRO capacity and recently added veteran technician John Fleeman to head the department. Comlux Completions has also received a supplemental type certificate for installation of a Gogo Avance L5 global communication system, incorporating both air-to-ground and satcom for the Challenger 300-series. “It takes a short time to install for a very good price,” said Gaona.
Comlux’s brokerage business has also been busy, having sold three aircraft this year: an ACJ 320, Gulfstream G450, and Challenger 605. But the prize sales come in 2020, when two BBJ Max 8s the company ordered become available. “We bought them and we want to sell them with the cabin completion,” Gaona said. “There’s a lot of demand in China for slots,” but the next aren’t available from Boeing until 2022.
“It’s always the same when they launch a program,” he said. “Everybody says, ‘I’ll wait [to order],’ but when the first aircraft is delivered, they say, ‘I don’t have a slot!’ This is why we buy and speculate on a slot for clients: to help them get them earlier. We do this with all kinds of agreements with Boeing, and we’re not competing, so everybody wins.
“Asia is not only China,” Gaona concluded, pointing to the company’s office in Hong Kong “with a local representative in the same time zone” as emblematic of its commitment to the region. “There are more and more opportunities, so it cannot be a place you ignore. It’s very important to have this presence.”