What triggered your interest in aviation?
A family holiday in 1982 on a Britannia Airways Boeing 737 from London Luton to Faro, Portugal marked my first aircraft flight. From the moment we took off I was hooked and it’s been in my blood ever since. After that I was lucky that my childhood was spent living close to Welshpool airfield, which gave me the opportunity to work for my private pilot licence which I received just after my 17th birthday. I still credit the late Bob Jones, who developed the airport from nothing, with being the catalyst for where my career’s taken me.
Tell us about your career to date
After university in Plymouth I moved to London Luton and London Heathrow in business aircraft handling. In 1998, my 15-year career with Gama Aviation started, ending in being the group general manager and managing director for the Middle East and Asia. I was then approached to cross the Gulf and join Qatar Airways as executive vice-president, heading their business aviation division, which was a tremendous opportunity in a very unique environment. After eight years in the Middle East, a bit more than my original plan of six months, I came back home to the UK to join Synergy Aviation with some former colleagues and friends to develop an aircraft management and charter company with a fresh approach to the companies we’d worked with in the past. Outside of Synergy Aviation we also invest in other complementary aviation businesses which provide a little variety to what we do, also I’m on the board of directors of Web Manuals, a Swedish Cloud-service provider setting the standard for digitising manuals for the aviation industry.
What have been the highlights?
Being part of the senior management team growing a company from five aircraft to over 100 is something I’m very proud of, starting up a business jet operation successfully in the Middle East in the largest global recession also features highly. Now seeing Synergy Aviation begin to shape itself for future growth and developing our service offering, which is being well received, is hugely rewarding for us all. If I have to choose one thing, even if it does sound a bit of a cliche, it’s following the careers of people I’ve hired along the way as they’ve developed their careers, I think that’s genuinely the nicest highlight of everything.
How does a relatively small player like Synergy attract and retain customers in the hugely business aircraft management niche?
There is so much talk of consolidation being the only way the market can go and that smaller companies have to disappear; however, the cynic in me can’t help noticing the link between ‘consolidation’ and ‘retirement’ and if you look closely it is a theme running through most consolidated companies. While there are arguably some slight economic benefits to being in consolidated fleets, we firmly believe that focused, bespoke aircraft management is what the owners of business jets are really looking for and saving half a cent on a gallon of fuel isn’t what concerns them the most. Our aim is to get the fleet to around 15 larger cabin aircraft over the next two years and provide a focused service which is director-managed and led, so that owners have direct access to us to discuss their aircraft. It’s not revolutionary, but it is taking the industry back to a time when aircraft management was about the aircraft owner and not a numbers game.
Tell us about your typical week
At the moment I’m spending most of my time on business development and growing our client base at Synergy and that involves a significant amount of time in London and travelling around Europe. Aside from that, we’re spending a lot of time on procedures and policies to shape the business for further growth and also ensuring we have a pipeline of talent ready to go for us. I’m also spending around one day each week on our other investments and board work.
What do you like most about your job?
At the heart of it, like most people in aviation, we’re all a little ‘geeky’ and so the fact that I get to combine my interests and my working life is obviously pretty special. I’m also back working with some great friends which makes life far more entertaining.
What challenges do you face?
The world is waiting to see what falls out from a Trump presidency and the Brexit negotiations, both are causing uncertainty which impacts business aircraft use. Obviously the scaling back of deliveries by most of the major manufacturers is indicative of where new aircraft sales are currently sitting, but I think it’s important we focus on the positives and don’t forget there is still a huge market out there and business aircraft usage continues to steadily increase.
Source: Flight International