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"Air Taxi" with a Cirrus

Plus: For the price of the Cirrus you can buy 3-4 Aztecs that increases the odds that one of them is in flyable condition tremendously.

In general: Individual plane dispatch rates are quite irrelevant for air taxi operations. Nobody who is mentally fit to board an airplane would try to set up such an operation with just one plane. The business question is if you can afford the cost of capital for a fleet that is large enough so that the techniocal dispatch rate is in the high 90ies independent of that of an individual plane.


The beloved Aztruck is a robust, benign type with a decent safety record. A well presented E will cruise at 170 KTAS and carry an equivalent payload of a NeverGo, and possibly on half the maintenance budget. It is not turbine all weather, the fat wing will carry ice but beware stabilator stall when carrying ice. A combination of FL140, orographic lift and convective activity in the winter meant that even the battle tested Aztruck will struggle to climb on top at night in icing. Landing at Barajas it still had rugby ball size accretions.

I am not sure what a decent maintenance budget for a working aircraft might be, but I doubt today much change from EUR50k p.a. Hydraulics, engine and airframe hoses, torque tubes, cabin heater pressure checks, plus the usual other items, means these 50 year old airframes need TLC, although corrosion should not be an issue. Some spare parts are hard to find, Diamondaire in Montana probably had the best spares inventory.

Airways you are paying charges.

Enstone (EGTN), Oxford (EGTK)

RobertL18C wrote:

need TLC

A lot.

One well known owner of an Aztec posted many times of £20k/year maintenance, which I would consider outrageous. OTOH a large old heap with 2 motors is going to cost 2x more than a smaller old heap with 1 motor And he did say that this is OK because he has a spare motor; not an unusual way of looking at it IME, and it probably explains why UK based twins are mostly in a neglected condition.

However, on the air taxi topic, I thought piston twins died out years ago.

The piston twin charter business was still just about going (in Senecas) when I started flying in 2000. The accident report on the famous G-OMAR crash shows what were fairly standard “sail close to the wind” practices; necessary because a Seneca can carry six “standard modern people” only with empty tanks. I started my PPL in the same company and walked out because I judged that my life expectancy was shorter than how long it would take to finish the PPL in their PA38s

It must be damn hard to get charter (i.e. “non-GA”) customers to climb into a plane which looks knackered even from 10m away.

One would think SE turboprops would be much better for charter work. They look the part – slick posh and expensive and make the right engine noise. But the AOC restrictions on SE aircraft are very tight. I am told one could not even run a Lydd to Le Touquet service because one needs to be ~FL100 to meet the glide clear requirement, and one would struggle to get entry into the Class A at that level, down there.

I still don’t get how one can do this with an SR22 because the cancellation rate will be way above what I would expect customer expectations to be.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

It seems old piston twins are dead for air taxi.

A DA42/62 or Cirrus tick the modern, nice car like, interior box.

I’m not talking about substituting turboprops or jets with a Cirrus. But, for quick flights like LOWG – LJPZ it could work, at a fraction of the cost of chartering a jet.

CB IR Instruction

There is a very promising project being developed in Badajoz LEBZ with a Piper Meridian/M600. Badajoz airport has only connections by plane to Madrid and Barcelona and no fast trains.

You can see details here (only in Spanish though).

Don't get too slow

Snoopy wrote:

It seems old piston twins are dead for air taxi.

I agree, and I doubt they are.

OK, compared with a Cirrus about double the burn, BUT consider the difference in initial capital outlay and on going service costs – you will not find a big different between the two, and there are far more shops that will take care of the Aztec. TKS fluid will eat away at the budget in winter if you are really flying all weather – it is vry expensive stuff and I can assure you you get through a lot. The Aztec also takes 6 adults and luggage, the latest version of the Cirrus 4 adults (just about) and a little luggage, and the earlier versions rather less.

Obviousy I would guess the market this would need to be pitched at, is not going to grumble about the cost, be it £600 an hour or £700 an hour, which surely has to be around the ball park to making it worthwhile? (I havent thought about those numbers too much, and inevitably “occupancy time” will be a major consideration. I have a feeling it would run at around half the cost of small bizjet, but will obvioulsy have the advantage of being able to access a much larger selection of smaller airports.

The interior of old twins can be made pretty nice and not really that different from typical small bizjets, and I am guessing for the a typical flight of up to two hours and no more than three hours, the punters will be more than happy. I doubt anyone reallys wants to be sitting in any of these for much longer, which is why I guess anything much over 400 miles becomes the territory of the light bizjet because it will do these journeys in half the time and better.

Having got arouund to reading the original article I can see the sense in their plan. I have done Miami Int across to the other coast many times in a Cirrus (albeit self fly hire). Its great, someone brings the Cirrus over and we (I) fly it back. Of course it is signifcantly more cost effective in the States. Landing at Miami Int is $50, or nothing if you take fuel, and, of course the fuel is cheap (relatively). A four hour journey is cut in a quarter and I have no doubt there are plenty of punters that would be happy to pay for that at commercial rates and of course with Florida weather dispatch rates would be very high (in terms of weather related no gos, although dodging the thunderstorms in the summer can be interesting!). You need only spend a few hours in the executive lounge at Miami to witness the constand flow of light bizjets bringing punters in for a days golf or some business.

As I said earlier the Cirrus doesnt really do loads though. I have had three on board with golf clubs for example, but it isnt comfy, and in the States everyone is going to have a motor caddy! Something like an Aztec on the other hand will eat that sort of load. You will get a few full sized surf boards in the Aztec as well, try that in a Cirrus or pretty much any typical four seater light single.

It would be interesting to know how the same business model could work in the UK and Europe? I know a lot about a new commercial venture using light twin turbines for a regular route which is stacking up very very nicely and the numbers look very attractive. (It is in Europe, not the UK). However this is a point to point with a difference and not air taxi, on a route that for special reasons currently has no air service at all, and which it is doubtful any of the usual operators could tap into the market.

In the UK, I guess the interesting market would be operating out of one of the small peripheral CIty centre airports – London being the most obvious, which would bring the West Country, the Midlands, the CIs and North France into range for business and pleasure. The market would of course be largely the business punters – whether there are enough and whether they would committ their employees to an AOC operation in light twins would be the key. You are clearly not going to make a fortune by a long stretch, but you might make some money and have a lot of fun. I guess you will not struggle to find pilots most of the time and pretty good rates as well.

Every point ot point service (well at least in the UK) that I can think of has gone bust, pretty quickly usually as well. Even the I of M service has now gone which was a long standing point to point that worked reasonably well. Surprisingly I am not aware anyone has tried such a service from one of the cheap London satellite airports, but then I am not sure there is a viable point to point route which would have all year traffic. Newquay and the CIs would work, but that is sown up at the moment, and you wouldnt compete on cost. i dont think anyone does the Midlands and the North anymore (?), but the road routes are usually not that bad, and finding smaller airports nearer the centre of these big hubs challenging (for example Manchester would only offer Barton, or Manchester City – Manchester City would price itself out of the market and Barton is not all weather).

All in all one can see why these services have always ended in disaster in the UK, (and I expect most of Europe) where the smaller operator is simply priced out of the market with airport fees, onward transport costs and problems for the passengers, other reasonable ground based transport services, and weather. You also have all the issues of CAS – with a complete lack of guarantee of any service outside CAS (and therefore probably an unacceptable risk to passengers) or the problems of climbing into CAS in the UK and Europe (which will prove a nightmare). Again, compare and contrast with Florida, where you will get a flight following service the whole way, excellent radar cover, and unhindered access to CAS around all the major hubs including the large international hubs. It is, as we have discussed before, a different world, set up to “can do” as opposed to “you want to do what, ah, well we dont do that here”.

An air taxi service might work, a point to point service, I can think of very few viable routes that would stand any hope whatsoever, and none in the UK.

The way to do this would be to put a fancy interior in an Aztruck (low cap outlay) and offer shared ownership with prices reflecting a Cirrus ;)

CB IR Instruction
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