Private jets make their mark on the Isle of Man

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Isle of Man-based VIP business aviation services provider The Private Jet is gearing up to expand its operation and global reach to exploit the demand for bespoke aircraft management from a growing niche of very high-net-worth individuals.

The three-year-old company – which provides turnkey solutions for business aircraft buyers and owners – is building the Isle of Man’s first dedicated fixed-base operation and VIP passenger terminal at the island’s airport to cater for the wealthy travellers.

“We are responding to customer demand for high-quality business aviation facilities at the airport – which is the face of the island. We don’t have this at the moment,” says The Private Jet managing director Tony Corlett.

bombardier challenger 605, isle of man registry
 © Isle of Man Registry

The Private Jet manages six business aircraft on behalf of its owners. These are placed on the Manx register – the only one in the world dedicated solely to registering private aircraft – and are not available for charter. “We plan to double our managed fleet and the new facility will give ample room to expand,” says Corlett.

The firm is investing over £3 million ($4.8 million) in the FBO, which will be built in two phases, starting in 2011. “This is to give us 5,000m2 [53,820ft2] of hangar space and help to encourage more international business aircraft owners to the island – a British dependency in the Irish Sea – which has excellent tax benefits and a sound financial structure.”

The Private Jet has focused on the European and US markets to date but hopes to widen its customer base to the Middle East and Asia, which has a growing pool of wealthy individuals who have no need or desire to sell excess hours to the charter market.

“This market has not been impacted by the recession. For these owners, business jet travel is a lifestyle choice and they will not comprise that,” says Corlett.

Meanwhile, the Isle of Man registry has over 300 business aircraft and helicopters, three and a half years after it was established. New registrations of M-prefixed business aircraft will reach 120 this year – 56 of which were added in the first six months of the year, says Brian Johnson, the island’s first director of civil aviation.

The register has attracted disgruntled private owners who have become disillusioned with other national registers notably the overseas territories such as Cayman and Bermuda. It was set up as a cost-neutral entity by the Manx government, which also makes registration and other related services significantly cheaper than most other national registers.

The department has limited M registrations to aircraft above 5,700kg (12,555lb) – the Cessna Citation CJ1 and Beechcraft King Air upwards – unless the owner is based in the Isle of Man. “Our objective is to attract new business to the island and owners of larger aircraft types are more likely to fall into this category,” says Johnson.