Traditionally the ‘EBACE edition’, this summer 2021 EVA takes a rather European-centric view of business and VIP aviation, with the notable exceptions of our Gogo Business Aviation cover story and an examination of how the industry is expanding in Africa. Dave Glenn, Gogo Business Aviation’s SVP Customer Operations, reveals the heady mix of high-tech and adventure that brings air-to-ground connectivity into business aircraft cabins. He reminds us that behind every call made in the air, every email or text message sent, there is massive, constantly maintained infrastructure on the ground. But then, he also acknowledges that ours is a small industry where people genuinely do tend to know one another, which means exemplary customer service is a prerequisite for success.
It’s a message repeated at Krimson Aviation, Vertis Aviation and SD, all of them serving the challenging, yet growing market for business aviation in Africa. Krimson Aviation founder and CEO Dawit Lemma, and Vertis Aviation’s Chief Operating Officer James Foster, stress the somewhat different African perception of what business aviation is. Lemma says it could be a mission as simple as a farmer flying to the nearest market in a Cessna 172, while Foster notes that his customers’ journeys within the continent are often more about taking the quickest and safest means of reaching their final destination than they are luxury travel.
The pandemic has seen more business aviation operators than ever taking on roles usually filled by general aviation and freight outfits as demand for some services has outstripped supply, or new missions have arisen requiring the reach and expertise of business aviation. The definition of business aviation, even in Europe, therefore seems to be changing. Perhaps it is time to embrace elements of the general aviation industry more closely, for the greater good of all?
Meanwhile, the debate about whether there is still a place for business aviation in a world now so familiar with video calling continues to rage. For many, me included, Zoom, Teams, Google Meet and others, initially meant I could carry on doing what I do, but have subsequently enabled new opportunities. I’ve interviewed people across the world, often simultaneously, entertained recently by early morning on the UK interviewee’s screen, late afternoon in Singapore and an Australian correspondent sitting in her garden in complete darkness.
Those interviews have been great. Do they mean I no longer need to travel to shows? To company facilities, to meet and talk with people, and discover how they do what they do? No. Instead, they mean I have a new tool and perhaps travel less, but with new possibilities that complement those trips I do take. Why? That’s easy.
I’m guessing most people who’ve read this far have experienced a video call where the other party has laaaaa… gg… ed. Have you lost them? Should you try to reconnect? You’re about to try but they’re back all in a rush because now the system is catching up and you’ve already spoken and now you don’t know if they’ve heard and they don’t know what you said because you talked over them and now you’ve frozen anyway. I don’t know how many people I’ve interviewed at shows, in hangars, cockpits and offices – it must he several hundred. I don’t recall any of them lagging.