Contrary to popular belief, flight by private jet is not only for the elite. Although private jets have developed the stigma of luxury in the past, business aviation is quickly becoming the only way to travel as many energy companies need to fly in and out of remote locations.
With much of today’s energy industry working in remote locations and with a growing need to transport employees and management, Ian Darnley, director of Business Development with Sunwest Aviation Ltd., is meeting that demand.
Darnley says, “The energy industry as we know it in western Canada would not exist without business aviation, as all sectors of oil and gas industry utilize this service. We are supporting the full range of activity, from initial survey as a potential investment location to construction to full-production workforce transportation. The demand is vast and all-encompassing. It’s a fascinating job because the industry has to move management, exploration, construction and production personnel to and from remote locations daily and in growing numbers.”
In the air charter business in Alberta, the majority of aircraft, are commuter and airliner type aircraft being operated by commercial charter companies and private operators. Business jets more commonly associated with private aviation cannot always carry the loads or access the smaller runways. Darnley says, “The solution is to have a diverse fleet of aircraft of all types that can meet the full range of needs that customers require often at short notice.”
Darnley explains their customized western Canadian solution. He says, “Most of the flying is conducted between the major population centers of the South such as Calgary and Edmonton, and more northern exploration and production sites in northeastern Alberta (oil sands) and northeastern BC (gas). There are dozens of site airfields all over this region, which are utilized for this work. Although many energy industry people do use commercial airlines to fly to Ft. McMurray and then travel over land to their work sites, customized charter into these sites is a necessity. The majority of flights are within North America, however it is common for Sunwest to conduct a number of trans-oceanic jet charter trips per year. With a fleet that can go anywhere in the world, Sunwest’s longest range jets can travel with 12 passengers nonstop from Calgary to continental Europe.”
For the majority of private aircraft users, charter continues to be the most flexible and cost-effective travel option. It is not a case of traveler “preference” as much as an economic necessity. The costs associated with extra time needed to travel by airline and then roadway far outweigh the efficiency benefits of moving people in and out of the job site directly and on a schedule that matches their production needs.
The main advantages of these types of trips are the access it provides to smaller airports and the ability to access multiple locations in a short period of time versus airline travel. Avoiding large commercial airline terminals and having the aircraft on your schedule versus the other way around makes flying private aircraft the new standard of efficiency—and it’s a lot more fun!
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