Private aviation is holding up

The private aviation industry in
Cayman has held its ground against the recession but is still down compared to
previous growth.

Marcus Cumber of Island Air noted
that economic conditions brought a difficult situation to the fore, which has
continued for all businesses.

“We’ve been fairly steady and
haven’t seen a decline, per se, but we saw great growth in general aviation
from 2005 to January 2009.

“The whole of 2009 was flat and
regressed a little, and so far in 2010 we’re not losing, and I’m grateful for
that. When we look at other islands, we’re not losing as much as they are,”
said the head of the fixed-base operations specialist.

Mr. Cumber added that later this month
he will attend the National Business Aviation Association conference in
Atlanta, Georgia. The 63rd meeting and convention features 25,000 business
aviation professionals who gather to share information about new developments
in the sector.

“It’s the largest corporate show in
the world; all the newest aircraft are in there and it covers anything and
everything aviation. It’s unbelievable; there’s two 200,000 square foot
exhibition halls next to each other and you could spend four or five days there
and not get through every booth.

“When I was sharing my information
with the Texaco guys, who have fixed-base operators throughout the Caribbean
and the world, I realised that my decline percentage, which I thought was
terrible for me, was one of the least to lose,” he said.

 

Luxury party planned

On February 4, 2011, Mr. Cumber
said, Netjets will arrive on Cayman with three private aircraft. The fractional
aircraft ownership company will be offering not only straight sales, but also
plane hours.

“They’re coming up with different
ways of crunching the numbers, and one of those is to remove deadheads [return
flights to base with no passengers or cargo on board], so if you buy 20 hours,
that’s 20 hours of positive time on the aircraft so relocation costs are absolutely
at a minimum.

“Almost like a taxi, you’re paying
for the route you’re going and not the taxis coming to find you,” he observed.

The Netjets visit will form part of
Island Air Luxury Party, which did not take place in 2009 due to the down
economy and the fact that previous sponsor Cessna were having a difficult year.
The event will include jewellery companies, banks, car companies and more, he
added.

 

Fly-in planned

The luxury party coincides with a
fly-in run by Caribbean Flying Adventures; a number of private aircraft will
fly to Grand Cayman and embark on a number of excursions, including
snorkelling, boat trips and receptions. The fleet will then fly to Little
Cayman for lunch and more snorkelling, echoing the previous visit in January
2010, when 15 planes carried 34 people to Cayman’s hotels, restaurants and
attractions.

Jim Parker of Caribbean Flying
Adventures said that interest has been growing in the fly-in since last year’s
successful event, plus a successful link with the Oshkosh airshow in the
American Midwest, where the company linked with Department of Tourism to tell
delegates what the destination has to offer.

Mr. Cumber said that fly-ins such
as this could have a real impact on the private aviation market, but
enticements need to be given to stimulate word-of-mouth.

“We’re really excited by it and
want to see it build, but the only way you’re going build these things is to
say, come to Cayman, we’re not going to give you any landing fees or parking
fees just for that week you’re here.

“It’s $45 or $50 depending on the
weight and $15 for parking fees; surely we can waive that. We go out and meet
them in our golf carts, trucks and vans, give them a welcome rum punch and
discounts in the restaurants we work with on their itinerary, and we do all
this for free.

“Even though I’m making money on
fuel, the margins are small. But the aim is that these 15 planes each with
three or four people on board are going to multiply over the next year, and
hopefully the spinoffs from people passing on how great Cayman is, and how good
the weather is, will be just a win-win for everybody. Even if you have a small
GA aircraft, those things cost $50,000-plus, so you have to be middle income at
least, which is our target market.”

LOCALPrivateAviationSTORY

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