Setouchi launches Japan's first members-only business aircraft programme

Setouchi Holdings, which owns Quest Aircraft, the developer of the Kodiak single-engined turboprop, has launched Japan’s first members-only business aircraft operation using the all-metal, high-wing type.

Sky Trek began services in August and has taken delivery of four Kodiaks from a 2016 order for 20 aircraft – the largest commitment for the type to date. The Tokyo-headquartered company plans to receive another six examples before year-end.

“Our goal is to open up the business aviation market in Japan, and offer an alternative to traditional methods of transport such as commercial airlines, cars and bullet trains,” says Mike Sai, director of Sky Trek’s overseas business division.

Business aviation has struggled to gain acceptance in Japan, which is home to only 49 business jets and turboprops, Flight Fleets Analyzer shows. This is partly due, says Sai, to negative perceptions in the country of private aircraft as ostentatious symbols of wealth.

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Sky Trek

However, the Kodiak is challenging this notion, suggests Sai. In addition, its performance characteristics are also helping to win business.

“The aircraft’s ability to operate from short, unpaved runways is a huge draw for many customers,” he says. He points to the Kodiak’s ability to access all of Japan’s 120 airports, including Honda airport – situated 32nm (60km) northwest of Tokyo. Honda has the shortest runway in the country at 720m (2,360ft), but offers an alternative to the Japanese capital’s slot-constrained hubs of Haneda and Narita.

Sky Trek has already signed up 100 members, and Sai says interest in the programme is growing. “Our service appeals to people who cannot afford to buy private aircraft, but can afford charter. There's huge untapped potential for a service like this,” he says.

Sky Trek has begun to widen its service offering to support its members travelling outside Japan. In early October, the company shipped a Kodiak to Hawaii – described by Sai “as one of the most popular destinations for Japanese tourists”. The aircraft will be used to fly customers around the archipelago, and will be operated on Sky Trek’s behalf by a local charter provider, Royal Pacific Air. An operation in the Philippines will also be added this year.

Fleets Analyzer records a global fleet of 235 Kodiaks, the first having entered service in 2007; Quest has so far shipped 33 examples in 2017 and expects to deliver 40 units by year-end – its largest-ever annual total.