FLIGHT DEPT PROFILE
Sino Jet flies execs worldwide from HKG
Chinese use of personal jets for business and pleasure fuels growth of Hong Kong air travel company.
By Grant McLaren
Sino Jet Pres & CEO Jenny Lau with Chinese Dragon Lion dancer. Traditionally, the lion symbolizes strength, power and excellence.
Business jet acquisition continues to move at a fast pace within the Asia Pacific region. And there is probably no better example of this than what's been going on at HKG (Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong)-based Sino Jet Management.
Since the aircraft management organization was formed in May 2011 by former private banker and now Sino Jet CEO Jenny Lau, 8 large and supermidsize US-registered business jets have been based at HKG for local and mainland-based owners—most of them first-time buyers. Within 2 years Lau anticipates doubling the size of Sino Jet's managed fleet and pilot group.
Such rapid deployment in locally-based business jet assets is good news for OEMs and flight department personnel and for local service and support organizations. But it's also straining local infrastructure, maintenance and parking capability at HKG. Most of the 60-plus large and supermidsize jets domiciled at HKG—including Sino Jet aircraft—are in the service of first-time business jet owners.
And there's a learning curve for these owners in terms of understanding opportunities and operational limitations that go along with business jet ownership.
"Business jets are a new tool for owners in Hong Kong and the mainland, but we've seen the local aircraft owner mindset change over time," says Lau. "Back in about 2008 everyone wanted new large-cabin aircraft predominantly as status symbols.
Today, we see a trend toward acceptance of preowned and smaller aircraft as well as increased business utilization. Up to 80% of our fleet's flight time is now for business purposes—often for clients in manufacturing, mining, real estate and telecom sectors. The local market here, and understanding of business aviation benefits, is maturing quickly."
Large cabin mix
(L–R) Capt Justin Derkash, Flight Attendant Alice Chan, Capt Abel Meregote and Capt Fred Weber prepare to board Sino Jet's chartered Gulfstream G200 prior to its next mission.
Sino Jet's current managed fleet consists of a Bombardier Global Express, Global 5000, Challenger 605 and Challenger 300, Embraer Legacy 650, Gulfstream G550, G450 and G200.
Just 2 of these aircraft—the Global Express and the G200—are on charter certificates, while the others are flown privately on behalf of local and mainland-based owners.
Sino Jet's support team includes 17 pilots, 4 mechanics (primarily for line maintenance and AOGs), 8 schedulers and a growing number of customer support personnel.
"We're definitely in growth mode and always looking for pilots interested in working here on a long-term basis," says COO Joseph Mack. "It's a different operating environment in Hong Kong and China and there are a number of regulatory challenges and restrictions.
Our focus is on developing a competitive edge by attracting the best talent, practicing very high standards and preparing for an ever-changing future regulatory environment."
Sino Jet bases its entire managed fleet at Hong Kong Business Aviation Centre (HKBAC). Routine aircraft maintenance and support is contracted to HKG-based Metrojet.
Meanwhile, Sino Jet uses the global resources of Universal Weather and Aviation to provide knowledge, expertise and full trip facilitation capabilities from its new Hong Kong-based TSS Asia office plus access to worldwide ground support on the mainland and throughout the region from Universal Aviation.
Building a business
Maintenance Technician Sam Pang (L) conducts a technical preflight inspection of the G200's forward avionics compartment while Sino Jet General Mgr Maintenance Paul Kwok observes.
A few years ago, while she was still in the private banking world, Lau had a client who asked for help managing a new private jet. During the almost 2 years she was involved with managing this HKG-based jet, Lau envisioned ongoing market opportunities in the growing fleet of locally-based N-registered jets for first-time operators.
Sino Jet was formed in May 2011 and opened its door to business that September, managing 2 aircraft with 11 nonflying employees. The business model proved successful, and within a few months 5 aircraft were under Sino Jet management at HKG.
There were initial challenges in building the organization—notably in finding experienced and available pilots and mechanics and orchestrating support for a diverse mix of aircraft types.
When Hong Kong film and martial arts star Jackie Chan acquired a Sino Jet managed Legacy 650—sporting red and yellow exterior dragon images—the company's management activities began attracting more public attention. For Chan, the Legacy has been a perfect tool to cover the region—from film sets in rural areas of the mainland to attendance of charity and publicity events worldwide.
For Sino Jet there were many moving parts to orchestrate in perfecting an effective and capable organization with the foundation necessary to become a preferred managed aircraft provider in the region.
"The challenge for our company was to build an organization for the long term—to attract good people and establish a strong and effective support network" says Lau.
"Business jets are new tools for many of our clients," he continues. These aircraft allow them to conduct business [both] within the region and globally more effectively than they could otherwise. Owners choose and purchase their aircraft but then leave everything else for us to manage."
In Hong Kong, as in Asia in general, people are accustomed to very high levels of service. This is no less so in the bizjet world, particularly for new owners of expensive large-cabin aircraft. To help make the transition to a private aircraft as easy and effective as possible, Sino Jet relies on the advice and worldwide experience of Universal to provide trip support when they travel outside of the Asia-Pacific region, Universal Aviation worldwide ground support for away-from-base ground handling and contract fuel from UVair. In addition, Sino Jet has developed new owner education programs in-house.