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Archive for April, 2011


BlueSky Business Aviation News | What you should know when setting up a business aviation company in Central Europe

There is a bright light shining on Eastern Europe today and the manufacturers have the region firmly on their radar, just as they do China. China is probably easier to conquer and possibly more attractive because of the promise of a high volume of orders, the sheer density of business and the whole demographics. China also has a special hunger. There is fascination for technology, the most state-of-the-art.

Business structures are complicated. Western companies wishing to succeed wisely choose to realise their ambitions in China with a Chinese partner. On the cultural side, partnering with a Central Europe company is relatively easy. There are no binding regulations and while there is a language barrier it is certainly not as hard to penetrate as the Far East. Yet even some of the most interesting countries for trade – Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, where business aviation is on the incline, still resist joining the Euro.

After the disaster experienced with Greece and Portugal, the European Union is establishing tougher conditions for membership to the Euro. If you come to do business in Central Europe you can just ‘feel’ the energy and ambition – this is quite different from the andrelin when there is an unusual demand during special events such as Olympics, or hosting the European presidency. Experiences can change day by day. Visiting an MRO in Russia one month will be a different, completely changed experience a month later. Currently there are 48 business aviation operators flying some 95 private jets commercially.

Does it make sense to open your private aviation business in central Europe?

Considering opening a subsidiary in the CEE? – I speak from experience having set up Grossmann Jet in Prague from the relative comfort of a business in Austria. It is very important to delegate Human Resources and let experienced people in that country help and advise you on building a business. Never underestimate local knowledge but don’t underestimate that tackling an undeveloped market is a disadvantage.

Seven years ago in Prague, for example, there were no business aviation companies. The media didn’t write about business aircraft and their value went unappreciated. Building a 24/7 business in any CEE country requires personal effort, just as it does in the Middle East and Far East. Face to face meetings are crucial. And when the time zones are not conducive, keyboards programmed in three languages are godsends.

To succeed with establishing a subsidiary in the CEE you will need to find diligent suppliers who stick to the rules you agreed. They need to focus on attention to detail too. Invest in understanding the people you are working with. What motivates them? what are their aspirations?

Today in Prague we have the perfect environment to grow business aviation. The private terminal is the old main terminal. It is called Terminal JIH or Terminal South, officially Nr. 3, and compared with those busy crowded chaotic airports, Prague is an oasis of calm. The whole infrastructure at Prague (focused on Terminal 3 where we have our base) is a strong infrastructure, which includes a local, adjacent hotel. Processing of passengers is smooth. Security is (shock, horror!) friendly and polite. The airport is open 24/7 (important for business aviation clientele who make their own schedules) and with no slots restrictions departure and arrivals can be managed easily.

The opportunities have not gone unnoticed by companies in the West. Cessna is building a Completion Centre at Prague Airport and Netjets are growing their operation here. There are several MROs and the skillset of the people – a result of their good education – is strong. Sometimes difficulties arise from simple misunderstandings or simply because everything is changing so fast, but in general the new generation here is hungry and focused on their targets.

When I founded CEPA ( – a networking organisation for central European business aviation – in 2009, the idea was to connect East and West. Today the association (with a 150-strong membership) is making interesting deals and creating more representation in CEE countries. Jiri Matousek, the new chairman, is the right person to have the CEPA EXPO held this autumn. It will be a small but focused quality event, with the aim of establishing something that in years will be seen a complementary, not competitive event. Its goal is to connect both markets and open up possibilities that are yet still unknown.

The most important fact that I have realized in my own 30 years in the business is that you need a lot of resilience. Honesty, vision, authenticity and skills are important but the most important factor is respect.