How Business Jets are Meeting the Challenges of a Pandemic

When times are hard, often the very best of private aviation shines through. Despite a global pandemic that has closed international borders, FAI is utilizing its business jet fleet to repatriate those who are stranded abroad. Here’s their story…

Matt Harris  |  09th April 2020
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Matt Harris
Matt Harris

Matt Harris is Commissioning Editor for AvBuyer. He is an experienced General and Business Aviation...

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Though it is often misrepresented as a mere luxury – the domain of the ultra-rich – in times of crisis Business Aviation is often found spearheading efforts to relieve suffering and provide solutions to logistical problems.

Business aircraft have traditionally played a prominent role in bringing supplies and helping to evacuate victims of hurricane- and earthquake-hit locations when other modes of transport have been unable. The current COVID-19 pandemic that has the world in its grip has been no different.

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FAI rent-a-jet AG, Germany’s leading air ambulance specialist and special missions operator, has been working tirelessly, around the clock, to help evacuate those in need following the spread of coronavirus.

The people benefitting from the service offered by FAI are both healthy individuals that are stranded and in need of repatriation, and infected patients.

“FAI is flying to and from all corners of the globe,” Siegfried Axtmann, chairman & founder, FAI Aviation Group told AvBuyer. 

“No one destination stands out as being the most popular, but the more common routes include those from the US to Europe; Asia to the Middle East; the Middle East to Europe; Asia to Europe; and the US to the Middle East.”

The safe transportation of infected patients has been made possible after FAI purchased two portable self-contained EPI-Shuttle isolation units for its aircraft. These ensure the company can transport infected patients without any risk being posed to flight or medical crew aboard the aircraft.

The medical team accompanying patients on all medevac missions conduct pre-flight temperature screening, and are qualified to provide the medical care and nursing that is needed in flight, as required.

250 Missions and Counting

Since the coronavirus crisis began at the end of December 2019, FAI has successfully completed over 250 air ambulance missions. “From March 2020, when the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic, we have completed over 60 successful missions,” Axtmann reveals.

Among them, in March FAI repatriated a group of German nationals transporting them back to Nuremberg free of charge.

“The group were stranded in Dubai and we flew them back as part of a re-positioning flight,” Axtmann says.

“We repeated this a few days later (at no charge) for a group of stranded Hungarians. Needless to say both groups were delighted to have been repatriated at such a difficult time.”

Making FAI’s efforts even more remarkable is the added challenge of flying internationally during the pandemic. “Since the start of the pandemic, flying internationally has become a lot more complicated,” Axtmann explains.

“This is only compounded by the situation constantly changing. Airport closures and changes to immigration laws have made it more difficult to get crews into airports."

Nevertheless, Axtmann notes that FAI has grown stronger with each challenge faced. “Our ability to be flexible and the strength of our team has helped us overcome some of these challenges, and we continue to operate through difficult circumstances.”

Capacity for the Challenge

So where did the extra capacity for the repatriation flights come from? “Demand for cargo – especially long-distance flights between continents remains good, but charter demand has deteriorated markedly, as it has across the industry,” Axtmann explains.

FAI continues to operate at maximum capacity for its air ambulance division, and averages approximately six missions daily, supported by its 10-strong fleet of five Bombardier Learjet 60s, four Bombardier Challenger 604s, and one Global Express air ambulance aircraft. And, FAI is supplementing its fleet with its executive charter fleet of business jets.

“We’re working hard to fulfil all requests that are coming in, 24/7, for repatriation and medevac flights, and we’re trying to do so as rapidly and as efficiently as we can. We’ll continue to do so as long as is practically possible,” he adds. “Demand is such that we currently have a backlog of between two to three days.”

It’s hard to say exactly how long the demand, and the impact of the pandemic will last. “Nobody really knows when foreign countries will open their borders again,” Axtmann concludes. “I would estimate that restrictions are likely to remain until at least the end of May.”

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