FLIGHT DEPT PROFILE
Kadoorie Group flight ops
Multifaceted group supports business aviation while tackling restrictions and costs in Hong Kong and region.
By Grant McLaren
Hong Kong-based Kadoorie Group promotes bizav services and infrastructure in China and Asia. Hong Kong Business Aviation Centre.
Supporting and growing business aviation in China is a long-term play and there is no organization better suited to the task than the Kadoorie Group and its Hong Kong Aviation Group (HKAG). The Kadoorie family began its business aviation portfolio back in 1996 with a single Learjet 31A based at the old Kai Tak airport.
Five years later the group was operating a Gulfstream IV and a Hawker 700 out of HKG (Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong, China) with 5 pilots and a handful of mechanics, owned a substantial equity interest in the Hong Kong Business Aviation Centre (HKBAC) and built twin helipads, atop its Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong, serviced by its Heliservices Eurocopter AS355N TwinStar.
(Top to Bottom)Peninsula Hotel's fleet of Rolls-Royce Phantoms, China Light and Power's Castle Peak power station, Metrojet fleet at HKG.
Today, HKAG manages a collection of 10 large cabin corporate jets at HKG, with 25 pilots and 7 schedulers and is doubling the size of ramp and hangar space at HKBAC. Local maintenance talent has swelled to 70 personnel who provide 24/7 warranty services and repairs to Gulfstream, Bombardier and other aircraft in the region.
Heliports are being developed throughout Asia, in association with the group's Peninsula Hotels in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Manila, Shanghai and Tokyo.
Meanwhile, the group is actively supporting a proposed waterfront public heliport facility for Hong Kong. While business aviation in Hong Kong and China is still minuscule compared to the major US bizav airports, the rate of growth is dramatic and heralds outstanding future prospects.
"It's an exciting market here in Hong Kong, China and Asia for business aviation and we've made great progress over the last several years although there are still many hurdles to resolve," says Head of Kadoorie Family & HKAG Chairman Sir Michael Kadoorie.
"Ease of operation of business aircraft has improved greatly and we'll see more breakthroughs in 2010 when the Chinese military is expected to release some low level air routes," says Sir Michael. "Operating costs, however, are still extremely high on the mainland, FBO infrastructure is limited and there are challenges in operating helicopters cross boundary between Hong Kong and the mainland.
But I see tremendous developing needs for business aviation as China takes her place as a world superpower over the next 20 years." The Kadoorie family, originally from Iraq, has been in China and Hong Kong for more than 120 years and is no stranger to long-term investments. China Light and Power (CLP) started small, decades ago, and is now the largest private investor in power infrastructure in China and provides electricity to more than 80% of the Hong Kong population.
Head of Kadoorie Family Sir Michael Kadoorie (L) and Hong Kong Aviation Group Vice Chairman David Tong, each holding models of CLP wind turbines, with MD Helicopters MD520N and Metrojet-managed Gulfstream G550 at HKG.
The family's Hongkong & Shanghai Hotels has controlled the Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong since the late 1920s and has a collection of profitable top-end hotels throughout Asia as well as in New York, Beverly Hills and Chicago. Tai Ping Carpets, another family enterprise which began 50 years ago, is also now at the top of its game with products in the White House, aboard business jets and yachts and throughout convention centers worldwide.
The plan is to deploy this same long-term focus in developing profitable business aviation markets throughout China and Asia. "There are no shortcuts to substantially developing business aviation in China and Asia and it won't happen tomorrow," says Sir Michael. "But we're beginning to see break even in certain areas and some of the seeds that have been sown will soon see crop."
Leading the charge on the business aviation front is Metrojet & Heliservices CEO Chris Buchholz, who joined HKAG in 2004 and appointed in his current capacity in 2007 to expand Kadoorie Group aviation interests.
Metrojet is part of HKAG which also includes Heliservices, a leading helicopter operator in the territory for 30 years. Over the past 13 years Metrojet has diversified into a leading operator of corporate jets in the region and has invested significant resources to become a full service center for business aircraft based in and transiting the region.
"We've just scratched the surface in terms of business aviation in Asia but we're already beginning to see a snowball effect," says Buchholz. "Our strategy is to invest ahead of the growth curve and, as momentum builds, you'll see a lot more happening.
Peninsula Hotel Fleet Vehicle Mgr Martin Oxley oversees the Hong Kong fleet of Rolls-Royce Phantoms. Rolls-Royce engineers worked closely with Sir Michael and Oxley in configuring the hotel's unique transport fleet.
A healthy change in the clientele mix, with more local clients and increasing demand for business aviation within Asia definitely are encouraging signs." Long-term opportunities Like a flower that attracts honey bees HKAG is putting in place infrastructure, a support network and service capabilities designed not only to attract existing corporate jet users but to sell business jet advantages to both the locally-based prospective market and regulators in the region.
"To encourage charter in the region, and develop fleets of locally-based aircraft, the corporate jet experience must be a positive one for new users," says Kadoorie Group Dir & HKBAC Deputy Chairman David Tong. "To this end we've invested in infrastructure as well as service and maintenance capabilities.