Niall Olver, the serial entrepreneur behind the early success of ExecuJet and the launch of the Grob SPn light jet in the 2000s, is back in business aviation with big plans for his Austrian-based Axis Aviation venture.

The aircraft management and charter specialist, which launched in 2022 and which he chairs, is launching in his native South Africa after taking over the aircraft management and charter activities of Absolute Aviation.

Axis Aviation

Source: Axis Aviation

Olver, pictured with the company’s accountable manager Kerstin Mumenthaler, believes scale is vital for charter companies

It will see Axis absorbing two fixed base operations in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and a fleet of 20 aircraft, more than doubling its existing fleet. Around 35 Absolute Aviation staff will also join Axis.

Olver says the integration “marks a significant milestone as we expand our global footprint”, adding: “Opening the doors to a new marketplace will provide our owners with greater flexibility, while delivering a broader selection of aircraft and destinations for our charter customers.”

An Embraer Legacy 600 and ERJ-145, Hawker 800, Bombardier Learjet 45, and a Cessna Citation Longitude are among the Absolute Aviation aircraft that will join Axis’s fleet.

Axis recently added a San Marino air operator’s certificate to AOCs in Austria and Switzerland, taking on its first aircraft registered in the tiny, landlocked republic, and Olver had spoken a few weeks ago about his desire to grow the business, which has a fleet that includes a Bombardier Global 7500, Global XRS, and Challenger 601, a Dassault Falcon 2000S, a Gulfstream G650 and G550, a Pilatus PC-12NG, and a Textron Aviation Citation Jet.

“Our intention is to make the business scaleable,” says Olver, who sold his interests in ExecuJet to Luxaviation in 2015. “This is a market full of mom-and-pop shops who hit a glass ceiling at 20 aircraft and have to go through a real pain threshold to get bigger as it becomes so much more labour intensive.”

He says Axis can cope with expansion because of a “proprietary platform” it has commissioned that allows owners to follow the progress of their aircraft using an app, and charter customers to select the right aircraft for them.

Eventually, Olver – who also controls a manufacturer of full-flight training devices called Axis Flight Simulation after buying into the business a decade ago – hopes to be operating a fleet of around 100 aircraft worldwide. However, he acknowledges that would need to be in partnership with a “US entity”.

Olver took over ExecuJet in 1993 when it was a small maintenance and aircraft sales company at Johannesburg’s Lanseria airport, building it into one of the world’s largest business aviation services organisations, with fixed-base operations and maintenance facilities on four continents as well as a fleet of more than 100 managed aircraft.

Four years after buying ExecuJet, Luxaviation spun off the maintenance part of the business to Dassault Aviation.

In 2005 Olver bought into small German aircraft manufacturer of gliders and aerobatic trainers, Grob Aerospace, providing the resources for it to take to market the SPn, a Williams International FJ44-3A-powered, all-composite light jet, unveiled at the 2005 Paris air show.

The programme was wound up with Grob Aerospace’s insolvency in 2008 (the company was later reborn as Grob Aircraft under a new investor).