Private aviation takes off: An interview with Hangar8

In an industry where demands and expectations are high, luxury and excellence becomes the standard. Yachting Pages spoke to Dustin Dryden, CEO of leading aviation company Hangar8, to understand the increasing demands when flying the world’s celebrities and UHNWIs around the globe.

Can you explain more about private aviation and Hangar8?

Private aviation is a whole lot more than just celebs and champagne lifestyle. In fact that side of it, although the most publicly known image of the industry, is in fact just the tip of the iceberg. It is the entry level of private aviation featuring the type of clients who are happy to show off their wealth to the world. This type of client will travel on a chartered aircraft or have purchased card schemes which allow them a fixed amount of hours to fly on a light or midsize cabin aircraft.

The other side of private aviation is where the big boys come in. This side is away from the limelight and very rarely known to the public. Having started out as a traditional charter operator, Hangar8 plc is today a very different player. We are now the largest operator in the United Kingdom and our two operators Hangar8 Aviation and JetClub are now catering predominantly to a different type of client; the large corporates and UHNWIs owning an aircraft, although we do of course still service the charter client.

We manage in excess of 50 aircrafts globally and they are mainly large cabin jets Embraer Legacy, Bombardier Challenger or Global, Gulfstream or Boeing Business Jet (BBJ). The owner, who is most often a UHNWI i.e. an oil and gas or mining company with very complex travel needs, is not interested in publicity and we do our upmost to keep their aircraft operation as private as possible. Discretion is key to this client and we are extremely proud of the service we deliver in that respect.

How has Hangar8 developed over the years?

Hangar8 has become a preferred supplier of aviation solutions to many of the world's largest conglomerates by operating safely and securely in and out of some of the world’s less glamorous territories. Such territories include the many parts of the Middle East and Africa. Hangar8 plc has conquered Africa (West Africa in particular) and is now the leading and most experienced operator in this region. We celebrated this achievement at last year’s EBACE by dressing up one of our global planes like a zebra. Not surprisingly we had lots of positive feedback from all over Africa on this and it was a really fun exercise.

Have you worked on many custom paint designs since?

The zebra job started a wave of enquiries from clients wanting to talk to us about custom aircraft designs and we started looking seriously at aircraft re-painting and refurbishment. In May 2014 we opened the new paint facility at Oxford Airport and it has been a real success. In tune with our previous celebration of our African business booming, we wanted to mark the opening of our paint facility in a similar fashion and we created one of the greatest aircraft makeovers I have ever seen; the world’s largest and most expensive birthday cards in honour of Prince George’s first birthday on 22nd July this year. It was absolutely amazing and again a fun project we have enjoyed working on.

Can you tell us about any bizarre client requests you’ve received?

There are many to choose from. We cater to a very unique clientele who, in most cases, are extremely successful, busy and often spoilt for choice in everything they do. Demands and expectations are high; luxury and excellence becomes the standard so to speak, so it would be difficult to single anything out and again, we would not ever share such a story, no matter how great it might be.

That said, there are of course events which have put a smile on our faces a few times in the past.

While some of these examples seem ridiculous and sometimes they are, there is often also a bigger picture which explains why someone would fly a tool kit or an engine part to West Africa or to Spain on a private jet. We do things like this all the time.

Turning a G550 around halfway over the Atlantic to rush back to New York for a hair appointment is one such example which shows wealth at an extreme level and makes little sense to normal people. The same can be said of the guy who flies chickens to the South of France because he likes a specific type of eggs. He does it because he can, but he has of course not bought an aircraft for this purpose. The purpose is always another, such as the need for these individuals to be able to move themselves from A to B when they want. The cost of not being able to do this would be far greater than that of occasionally flying your eggs on a private jet.

In what other instances would private jets be used?

Corporate hospitality is very much a normal reason for the use of private jets. It takes off especially in and around large international events; European and World Cups, Olympic Games and in our case the more important formula1. Being Oxford based, Hangar8 Aviation has long been closely tied to Formula1 and we see a lot of racing hospitality clients. It is a fantastic crowd and we are lucky to have them.

Considering that we also service, through Hangar8 Logistics, a number of the world's largest oil and gas companies, who are regular sponsors of racing, racing is really important to us. It is not only hospitality VIPs flying though. We have flown engineers out to various F1 circuits carrying engine parts, tools and front wings for cars needing urgent assistance. Imagine the cost of a F1 team coming to a standstill due to a missing engine part. The price of flying this part out on a private jet seems minuscule in comparison. Again, there is always a bigger picture.

For more information visit Hangar8.

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