Avionics News June 2020 - 37

PHONES ARE RINGING
AT MAGELLAN JETS
S T O R Y

B Y

D A V E

H U G H E S

The people asking Magellan Jets about flying on
business jets now are ones who can afford it, even though
in recent years they have preferred to fly first class on the
airlines. They enjoyed the lounges, airline services and
perks for premium customers. Then came COVID-19.
Now those calling Magellan Jets are making the
same statements and asking the same questions. They
no longer want to travel on an aircraft with a bunch of
strangers or sit in a lounge with a group of people they
don't know.
Then the questions start. How are business aircraft
kept clean? How many strangers have been on that
aircraft I am going to fly on next? What about the health of
passengers who used the jet before me, and what about
the health of the crew? How will I know if they have been
exposed to the virus?
Most people can't afford to own their own business
jet, according to Todd Weeber (pictured), the chief
operating officer of Magellan Jets based in Quincy,
Massachusetts. An owner would have to fly the aircraft
600 hours per year before it would make sense to own
one outright. Magellan offers memberships with access
to a fleet of aircraft whether the customer flies 25, 50 or
100 hours or more a year.
When Weeber answers customers' questions, he
speaks with authority. He is an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical
University graduate who has logged 16,000 hours in jets,
turboprops, seaplanes and gliders. He has served in frontline and leadership roles at Trans States Airlines, Midway
Airlines and NetJets.
There are numerous other ways to fly on a business
jet, including fractional ownership, charter and jet cards.
Customers can take their pick.
Weeber believes that what clients want and expect
now is for the aircraft to be decontaminated before each
flight. Weeber thinks the industry will come up with a
standardized way of doing this to be approved by the
Federal Aviation Administration and the European Union
Aviation Safety Agency.
Weeber also anticipates there will have to be some
kind of uniform application of health requirements
to satisfy passengers. Specifically, this means a
universally accepted way of prescreening passengers

and crew to fully understand and trace their contacts.
The industry won't be able to rely on someone signing
a form saying they haven't been exposed to COVID-19,
because some passengers will want to fly so badly that
they will sign anything.
In early April, the best news Weeber heard was when
Apple and Google announced they will collaborate on
creating a COVID-19 contact-tracing application for
phones. This early step may move toward what Weeber
believes is needed, a fraud-proof method of contact
tracing. Apple and Google will release software tools in
May so developers can create contact-tracing apps.
The idea is that if you sit on a park bench near
another person who later gets COVID-19 that your
phone will notify you (without identifying the person
involved) so you will know you need to quarantine.
There are lots of privacy concerns involved with this
approach as governments get involved with two tech
giants to track citizens.
Magellan's jet operations have been impacted by
COVID-19 in a big way, and its analysis projects that
business aviation bookings for the rest of the year may
be as low as half the bookings logged in 2019. "There
will be a lot of ups and downs and starts and stops,"
Weeber said.
But because business aviation works on a small scale
with a limited number of people compared to the airlines,
it will lead the recovery. "That is why in our forecast we
are confident business aviation will lead the rebound
to flying," Weeber said. "We don't have confidence the
commercial airline system will be able to provide the
assurances people need in large aircraft with hundreds
of strangers." Social distancing will be difficult, and it
will be harder to establish clean contact records for so
many people.
For business aviation, like every other sector, "it
is all about the passengers and when they will feel
comfortable again," Weeber said. There are plenty of
innovative people in business aviation who can crack
the puzzle of how to clean an aircraft in a standardized
way to reassure people. "When aviation people in
America come together to solve a problem, they are
better than anyone else," he said. q

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Avionics News June 2020

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