The Complex Challenges Of Ferrying Aircraft During The Pandemic

Across the continents, the aviation industry continues to be absolutely rocked by the pandemic. Airlines have been forced to suspend flights, planes have been grounded, and passenger activity has been at an all-time low. However, despite the dire situation, aircraft still need to be ferried to their rightful operator. Simple Flying recently spoke with Steven Giordano, managing partner of Jet Test and Transport, about how his company has adapted to the circumstances and some of the more unusual journeys that have been necessary over the past year.

Aircraft Sochi Silhouette
The organization prides itself on being able to eliminate middlemen and fully handle its clients’ transportation needs. Photo: Getty Images

An important role

Essentially, Jet Test and Transport is a third-party flight operations company. For over two decades, it has been a world leader in this scene. It specializes in the delivery and return of all variants of transport aircraft. It also has expertise in flight-test for the acceptance of aircraft, certification of systems, and modifications.

Its customers are primarily aircraft lessors. An aircraft has a variety of delivery and return conditions. In some cases, the airline is responsible for returning the plane or transporting it at the start of a lease. However, it is the lessor’s responsibility in other situations, and that’s where Jet Test and Transport comes in.

The implications of the pandemic have challenged the company well beyond where it has ever been before. The most significant complexity is that many countries have completely different rules. There are places that Jet Test and Transport used to head to frequently, like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, due to the maintenance facilities there and their convenient global positioning. However, several Southeast Asian countries have a policy where they’ve canceled all visas or canceled their visa-on-arrival programs.

Jet Test And Transport Aircraft
The company has been billed as being practically an airline with no passengers, aircraft, and cargo of its own. Photo: Jet Test And Transport

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Creative thinking

Jet Test and Transport has had to be imaginative as a result of these new policies. It decided to hire local crews to transfer an aircraft to a destination where its own staff can take over. It has also had to charter jets in specific cases.

“We charted a Falcon 7X from the US to Australia to move ten crews to move five airplanes at the same time, so that was crazy. And then, for Southeast Asia, we’ve been using Phnom Penh, Cambodia as kind of a pick-up point,” Giordano told Simple Flying.

“There are ways to avoid the immigration completely, where we’ll either airline or charter a jet into a place. But we’ll work with their local customs and border protection agencies, and we’ll get an exemption to where we can arrive, but we never even clear customs. We literally get off the airplane and across the ramp onto our airplane and then depart from there. So, Cambodia is a place where we’ve done a lot of that.”

As a result of the conditions, there are times where management is left pondering how they can execute a certain job amid the countless restrictions and measures across the globe. Notably, jobs that require stints in China have been extra complicated for the carrier. At times, Giordano is left yelling on the phone at representatives in the country in the middle of the night to try and advance a job.

Jet Test And Transport Cockpit
Giordano (right) often puts himself on the frontline, but the company nonetheless has a strong team of pilots. Photo: Jet Test And Transport

Major barriers

Overall, post-coronavirus China has become nearly impossible to do business in from a logistics standpoint for the firm. At the end of last year, Jet Test facilitated two 737-300 freighters going from YTO Cargo Airlines to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Serve Air Cargo.

The planes were Chinese registered, and local contractors were hired to deregister them. Jet Test had the task of moving them from China to Kinshasa. This move would normally be similar to its everyday operations, but not in the present climate.

“This was a monumental challenge because China has a mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival, and there are very limited flights going to China, and you have to have two different Chinese visas; you have to have a business visa and a crew visa to do that. And we all have these visas, but I can’t take myself out of the mix and go to China to sit in a hotel room for 14 days. I mean, our business would die if I did that. Then the other challenge is, as soon as the aircraft was de-registered, China has said that the aircraft has to depart within seven days from registration. “Then the same people that are in charge of immigration say that you have to quarantine at a designated hotel for 14 days. So, it doesn’t line up,Giordano explained.

“We had to hire local China-based crews with Chinese licenses, validate their licenses to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and hire them to fly the airplanes to Cambodia. We then had to send them back to China and pay to quarantine them for two weeks. Then we had to fly our crews to Cambodia inside of a 12-hour dispatch window to pick up the airplanes and then export them from Cambodia. It was unbelievable.”

Not giving up

Giordano and his partner flew an aircraft each, and it worked out in the end. However, there were unique and significant roadblocks along the way. The company used a Chinese citizen as a first officer. However, he was denied boarding in Phnom Penh before the team got there. Therefore, the firm picked him up and dropped him off in the Maldives, where Jet Test was going to do a fuel stop before continuing to Africa. Yet, the officer was also denied boarding in the Maldives, which meant that another solution was needed.

In total, it took ten days for the first officer to leave the Maldives. Jet Test & Transport bought him a ticket to Turkey then another one to Frankfurt. He had to do a PCR test in the airport terminal in Frankfurt to stay at the airport hotel and then fly to China on the way home. Altogether, he was on the payroll for 26 days!

Boeing 787 Dreamliner Getty Images
From turboprops to Dreamliners, Jet Test and Transport can handle transports across the board. Photo: Getty Images

These stories highlight the unprecedented challenges that those within the aviation industry face. Tasks that have largely been seamless for experts in the business now have numerous complications amid the ever-changing requirements. Nonetheless, the show must go on, and aircraft need to be ferried to where required. Therefore, despite the overwhelming circumstances, Jet Test and Transport continues to deliver.

What are your thoughts about Jet Test and Transport’s role in ferrying aircraft? What do you make of the challenges within the industry amid the pandemic? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.

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