Sponsored by Australian Corporate Jet Centres
Australian Corporate Jet Centres has officially completed its purchase of Jet City and Jet City Engineering, expanding the Melbourne-based company’s operations and fleet extensively. To learn more, Australian Aviation sat down with Australian Corporate Jet Centres’ chief executive Sam Iliades.
Congratulations on a very successful acquisition Sam! Can you tell us a little bit more about that process, and what it now means for the company?
The process was quite lengthy, and it’s taken a lot of time and effort from the team to get to the point where we’ve actually completed the transaction, which can be quite complicated in parts. Essentially, however, it has expanded the capabilities of Australian Corporate Jet Centres, particularly through the expansion of our fleet. The fleet now includes aircraft that we wouldn’t have operated in the past, namely aeromedical aircraft.
Jet City has largely specialised in the field of aeromedical aviation, so, moving forward, we will likely see Australian Corporate Jet Centres retaining its focus as a charter operator, while Jet City will become a purely aeromedical company. The acquisition will also see important and exciting changes for our business in the engineering space. Previously, we used to contract our maintenance out to third-party maintenance providers at Essendon airport. Now, following the acquisition, we have access to specially-trained engineers on hand, and we can bring as much of that maintenance work as possible in-house. So that engineering section which will now come under the name of Australian Aircraft Engineering.
In terms of structure, we have Australian Corporate Jet Centers, which is our main aircraft charter and management company, and under that is Jet City which, as mentioned, is going to be purely aeromedical in the future. Then we have Australian Aircraft Engineering which will be our CAR 30 Part 145 aircraft engineering company, in which we will do all our in-house engineering as well as any third-party engineering that we can get.
Then we’ve got AirStream Jets Asia Pacific, which is our air charter broking arm, and we usually use that business when we do a charter in an aircraft for one of our customers that we don’t operate. So that keeps it nice and clear that we’re not the operator of that flight. And finally, we’ve got our Executive Lounge, our FBO at Essendon Airport called the Melbourne Corporate Jet Center, which is a corporate terminal.
In addition to aeromedical operations, can you tell us a little more about what your newly extended fleet allows you to do?
We now have one of the most diverse fleets in terms of charter aircraft and helicopters, which we largely already covered prior to the acquisition. However, the new addition of the Lear 45, and the Citation X, it just rounds out the whole fleet. We now have everything a client might need in-house; from a Beechcraft Baron, up to a Bombardier Global Express. With our fleet, we have the capability to operate on unsealed strips, or run domestic flights, all the way up to transcontinental flights. We can seat up to 50 guests with our Embraer 145 LR, so we basically have all our bases covered.
It’s wonderful that you’ve been able to navigate and complete the acquisition process amid the difficult environment of COVID-19, how has that impacted the process, or your business more generally?
Obviously, like the rest of the travel industry COVID hit us pretty hard. So, during that period we decided it was a good time for us to run the ground. We weren’t flying as much as we usually would, in light of restrictions. A lot of owners stopped moving around. We were essentially grounded and that really paved the way for us to complete the Jet City acquisition.
At the same time, we were networking, and meeting clients over zoom, trying to build a bigger client base and educate people on what we do and on charter operations. The goal was to be ready and raring to go when conditions improved and borders opened up.
Ultimately, COVID also opened up a few opportunities for us. We were seeing people who had never chartered an aircraft before, who needed to move staff around, and were essentially locked out or just apprehensive of domestic carriers by this point. They would reach out and ask about our services, what we do, how we sanitise and keep our aircraft safe, all of our COVID practices in terms of our staff and so on.
And what we’ve seen is that these new clients, who never would have thought about a private charter previously, are now privy to just how easy and simple the whole process can be. And if you consider that you don’t need to go through the extensive security and boarding measures of a domestic carrier, or wait for a connecting flight or stay somewhere overnight if your meetings run too late for another flight, using our services can actually save you money. We’re seeing a lot of people are just waking up to the benefits of charter services.
With the transaction all done and dusted, what are the next steps for the company?
We still have a job ahead of us to finalise the merging of different parts of the company. Firstly, we have the engineering section, which will now come under the name of Australian Aircraft Engineering. So we’ll be building up our engineering base, and setting that up for us to become entirely self-sufficient in the maintenance of our aircraft.
Then, we also have the aeromedical side of the business, which as I said, is going to be a bit of a learning curve for us. Luckily, we’ll be working closely with the owner of that business, Lorne Cole, who will be staying on with us, so we can learn the ropes and see what we can eventually do in that area moving forward.
When it comes to those companies, we’re not trying to go out there and reinvent the wheel. Jet City is a 30-year-old company with amazing systems in place. They’re a leader in the aeromedical field in Australia, and we’re going to learn off them, we’re going to learn from Lorne Cole and his pilots and his team, exactly how that business works and then apply a little bit of ACJC expertise in there, and build up from there.