See you on the harshest runways
A conversation with Air-Tec's CEO about how operators flying in areas of the planet with extreme environmental conditions rely on the performance of H-Series engines.
"Your need is our passion." This sentence, which appears on the Air-Tec home page, sounds a lot less like a slogan and more pragmatic and realistic when you meet Group CEO and Director Jan Rehousek to talk about this aircraft leasing company’s business operated halfway around the world.
Rehousek is a Czech-born entrepreneur who has lived most of his life in Germany, where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering, and has always harboured a passion for aircraft and, in particular, for turboprop engines, with a preference for the twin-engine L410s built by Aircraft Industries. Furthermore, he is a licensed airline pilot.
"I've known that aircraft model since the 1990s, when I was involved in aircraft sales. Then, in 1997, I founded Air-Tec with my South African partner and began operating for specific type of customers," says Rehousek, who now lives between Cape Town (South Africa) and Nice (France).
Johannesburg is also Air-Tec's second office and facility, where the company's main operations reside, including technical and flight training, aircraft fleet operations, and maintenance services. Whereas, the administrative and financial headquarters is located further east in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Madagascar, on the magnificent island of Mauritius.
"Our teams are located in 15 bases around the world," Rehousek explains, “close to the clients in the areas where they operate, namely North and Central Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America. Most clients are humanitarian rescue agencies (UN, Médecins Sans Frontières, WFP, and the International Committee of the Red Cross) as well as operating for companies involved in conservation, mining and in the oil and gas sector. Overall, our fleets boast more than 40 aircraft, and we have about 400 people on staff."
These wonderful corners of the planet are also mostly remote and marked by extreme climatic and environmental conditions. For instance, mountain peaks or the Sahara Desert are locations that have very few, if any, runways and or airports. These types of environments are where aircraft like the L410, with its H-Series engines can provide high-reliability and exceptional performance.
"We work with a wide range of nationalities in highly complex locations. That is why our knowledge of engines has evolved," says Rehousek. "Over time, we have noticed and appreciated GE's investments in the turboprop segment, especially in terms of safety and performance. The engine upgrade from the previous M601 models to the H-Series has improved its ability to control and manage the engines."
These improvements are received and understood through feedback from its customers. Air-Tec understands that those clients operating under very challenging and often extreme conditions such as in high temperatures and at high altitudes, know precisely what they need
“These operators carry diverse (food, medicine, water supplies, and basic necessities) and voluminous, heavy loads. For them, it is imperative to have more payload with higher safety margins and exceptional reliability. For example, the improvements in extra power and high-temperature performance of the H-75 engine compressor have been crucial," Rehousek adds.
Avio Aero works very closely with Air-Tec to support its fleet of about 46 engines that power the company's 29 L410 aircraft and provide parts or entire replacement engines. "The engines reached their first TBO (time between overhaul, e.d.)," Rehousek says, "and the result was very satisfying for almost all the engines, with perhaps only one requiring additional checks".
Think about the operators or end users of engines and aircraft who fly long distances in the harsh environmental conditions described, exacerbated by extreme poverty, hunger, or war conflicts. Then, you can get an idea of how the combined work of Air-Tec and Avio Aero has a very significant impact, both technically and humanely. That is why reliability and safety remain the main priorities throughout the collaboration.
"These customers have quite extensive networks and also large facilities, on and offshore platforms, quarries in the middle of deserts, or vast areas of operations, connecting large cities with small villages and remote countryside. They require high-quality standards and dedicated support. We really support them and engage in contracts that last two years on average."
The collaboration with Avio Aero and GE Aerospace has enabled Air-Tec, boasting over twenty-seven years of experience, to expand its knowledge and technical capabilities. In particular, Air-Tec teams can reconfigure L410s, install new H-75 engines for operators in Africa or South America, and handle in-depth maintenance operations and engine spare parts, or even provide technical and pilot training.
"For our operating customers it is imperative to have more payload and safety margin with exceptional reliability"
“It has been very exciting for us to work with Avio Aero. We got along well right from the start. In the past, we often found ourselves working with teams in North America in a more complicated time zone. Teams are now in Europe, and it's basically like working with experts next door," Rehousek says with satisfaction.
Air-Tec aims to expand its horizons, starting with the preferred L410 aircraft. Together with the Beechcraft 1900D, they represent the company's future. "We want to achieve economies of scale and to focus on these two main models, to provide our customers with enough aircraft and spare parts to ensure they can fly in the most challenging situations. We endeavour to make their operations more sustainable, which is also what they expect. That is why we have implemented our own Environmental Management System (we are among the first) and are interested in working with Avio Aero on alternative fuels as well as next hybrid-electric solutions," Rehousek concludes.
The next challenge will be getting SAFs to the planet’s most remote areas.
Images and video in page and cover are courtesy of Air-Tec by Congo Conservation, all rights reserved.