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The single life

Single-engine turboprop (SETP) aircraft can be overlooked by business aviation customers, because they are seen as slower, noisier and less appealing than private jet aircraft. But with new, desirable aircraft set to enter the market, such as the Cessna Denali, and regulation changes afoot, the SETP market is set to fly in the next few years.

Although the FAA in the USA has permitted charters on single-engine aircraft since 1997, the European authorities have been much more cautious in allowing these flights. But it now seems that Europe is on the verge of permitting SETP charters. This summer, the EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) announced a review of the Europe-wide restriction, recognizing the advances made in the safety and reliability of single-engine aircraft. This comes after a campaign by the Single Engine Turboprop Alliance. EASA is set to authorize commercial charter operations for single-engine aircraft by the end of 2016, under instrument flight rules (IFR).

The economy of Europe is of a similar size to that of the USA, yet the business aviation industry is almost a quarter of the size. There is no doubt that this lifting of the single-engine ban will open up the market and help redress that balance. The benefits of allowing SETP for charter include lowering the entry point price for charter customers, encouraging many more passengers to see the benefits of charter, and commercial transformation for some smaller airports.

So this is a good news story for business aviation in Europe. It’s clear from the US market that lowering the entry point price brings in a significant number of new customers. 

Opportunities for airports

Single-engine aircraft can also open up many more airports, so they will be a welcome new revenue stream, and might even allow smaller airports to stay open. At airfields like Booker (next to High Wycombe, UK), for example, the runway is too short for most twin-engine props but perfect for single-engine aircraft, so it would be great to see this airport seeing a steady rise in movements as a new charter gateway for London. 

The move will also create entry-level jobs for many young pilots. Single-engine aircraft can be flown with a CPL (Commercial Pilot’s License), so this will allow many recently qualified pilots to gain employment in business aviation, giving them a different career path option that avoids years with the low-cost carriers.

A stronger market

There will also be a boost to aircraft manufacturing. At PrivateFly, we’ve already seen a great deal of customer interest in aircraft such as the Swiss Pilatus PC-12 (the native aircraft is approved for commercial charter to and from Swiss airports). With widespread European charter set to be authorized for this and similar aircraft, the manufacturers can look forward to a rush of new orders. 

Cessna’s Denali – targeted for a first flight in 2018 – has drawn comparisons with the successful PC-12. The new aircraft will add to Textron’s Cessna and Beechcraft families with a cost-effective, hyper-modern entry-point aircraft. With Cessna’s excellent brand reputation and the market opening up, the Denali stands to be very successful in the category.

And for aircraft owners, never has there been a better time to buy an existing single-engine turboprop aircraft in Europe. Used aircraft prices have fallen to record lows, so bargains are available, especially if you are using euros to buy a UK aircraft in pounds sterling. 

Aircraft owners will now be able to fully justify the value of having their own plane and, by having the aircraft managed on an AOC, it can also be utilized on the charter market.

About the author
Adam Twidell is PrivateFly CEO and co-founder. After 10 years as an RAF pilot and then flying private jets himself, he saw the opportunity to use technology to transform the fragmented private jet market.



September 27, 2016 



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