German business jet charter management firm Aero-Dienst (Booth U93) is celebrating at EBACE 2022 the opening of its maintenance station at Oberpfaffenhõfen Airport (EDMO) in southern Germany. The airfield is also the headquarters for the German Aerospace Center and home to more than a score of other aerospace companies and research institutes, including Lilium and General Atomics.
Aero-Dienst's lease for its new heated hangar was signed two years ago and with approvals issued last year, maintenance work—focused on Bombardier and Dassault Falcon jets—is now underway. The company also has options for additional hangar space as demand expands.
“We’re very lucky to have this facility,” said managing director Viktor Peters. “We receive absolutely great feedback from customers about it.”
The Nuremberg-based company also marked the 15th anniversary of its maintenance station in Vienna in December.
Meanwhile, Peters reported that its business jet charter segment did well during the pandemic, reflecting industry trends. Counterintuitively, the pandemic seriously hurt its air ambulance division, which he said runs “in parallel" to the airline business since most air ambulance patients become ill or injured while traveling. In response, Aero-Dienst removed two leased air ambulances from its five-ship fleet.
With lockdowns ending, “People are eager to go on vacation again,” he said, presaging “a good year” for its air ambulance business, a forecast that led the firm at the end of 2021 to buy an off-market Bombarduer Learjet 60, wading into the “very tight, really crazy preowned market.” Peters termed the acquisition “a big success for us.” With the conversion and testing and approvals now completed, the Learjet entered service last month.
The return to normalcy will be good for the company’s traditional charter business as well, notwithstanding disruptions caused by the Russia-Ukraine war. “People in Germany and Western Europe will fly to Spain, Turkey, or North Africa just to get a sunburn,” he said.
As for the impact of Western sanctions on Russia related to the invasion, Russian business represented “a very small percentage” of its charter activity. However, on the maintenance side “Russia was a growing market for Europe, especially during Covid,” Peters said, explaining that more jet owners emerged from Russia and within Eastern Europe in recent years.
“We are not just talking about the typical oligarch but also people who have built their businesses there,” he said. “We have many canceled projects in our hangers because we apply all sanctions as per our laws.”
Though some 10 to 12 percent of about 3,500 business jets in Europe are connected to a Russian owner or organization, Peters estimates that they have an economic impact “more towards 20 to 25 percent of the market because they use or own bigger business jets.
“We see operators in Europe going out of business now, especially those built with or on Russian money,” he said. “Some have already ceased operations.”
Oddly enough, one area of buoyancy for Aero-Dienst’s business has been aircraft life rafts—it has been an authorized Winslow life raft maintenance, repair, and sales facility since 2020. Long-range jets and helicopters that service offshore facilities are among the aircraft mandated to carry such equipment onboard.
“That's like magic for our customers,” he said of the new service, “because usually it takes two weeks or longer to recertify your life raft and it needs to be done regularly. Now we can do it in two to three days. If you send us your life raft, we can turn around the work in a tenth of the time.”
In addition to its own customers, Aero-Dienst provides the offering for other charter operators as an AOG service with a 24-hour turn-around time.