The stunning island of St. Barths differs from many of the other Caribbean islands in that you will find mainly luxurious hotel complexes and private villas there. St Barth Executive, an on-demand air carrier, operates a brand-new PC-12 NG to provide comfortable air travel for an exclusive clientele on St. Barths and neighbouring islands. Pilatus Aircraft Ltd
Vincent Beauvarlet, CEO of St Barth Executive explains: “After a long flight from Europe to one of the larger airports in the Caribbean, there was previously no convenient solution for tourists wishing to fly on to one of the smaller islands. Being a small airport with a runway which ends right at the water, St. Barths is challenging in that respect.” Vincent, who has over 4,000 hours in the air as a captain and flight instructor, has always been convinced that the PC-12 NG, with its spacious cabin and short take-off and landing capability, would be the perfect aircraft for this type of mission.
As a French overseas territory, St. Barths comes under the auspices of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). When EASA approved single-engine turbine aircraft for commercial operations two years ago, Vincent saw his opportunity. He and his team set to work: a new PC-12 NG was ordered from Stans and training courses were organised for St Barth Executive’s pilots and mechanics. Vincent Beauvarlet still talks enthusiastically about his PC-12 NG pilot training in Stans in November 2017. For someone who is used to the Caribbean, the Swiss winter’s temperatures took a little getting used to …!
Used to meeting challenges
Following delivery of the new aircraft in February 2018, it took several months’ work to obtain an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) from the French authorities. An AOC is an essential requirement for operating the PC-12 NG on a commercial basis. Vincent Beauvarlet comments: “We have always enjoyed very good relations with the French aviation authority. Our contacts were impressed by the professionalism of our team and the quality of the PC-12 NG.” When it comes to meeting challenges, Vincent is an expert: as a French national sailing champion and world champion, he knows exactly what the word challenge means.
Vincent had to face a challenge of a rather different sort not quite two years ago when the eye of Hurricane Irma swept across St. Barths in the early hours of 6 September 2017. The anemometer at the local weather station recorded wind speeds of 220 miles per hour (350 kilometres per hour) before it was destroyed. Over the next four weeks, St Barth Executive worked non-stop to help deal with the aftermath of the hurricane, using the propeller aircraft which it operated at the time. Vincent recalls: “Our first priority was to reconnect the island with the rest of the world. The hurricane had damaged the island’s fibre-optic cable, so engineers and technical material had to be flown in to tackle that. We evacuated injured persons, children and women to Guadeloupe on the outward flights. We also flew in emergency goods such as infant formula and medicines. It was an extremely busy time.”
A successful start
The PC-12 NG operated by St Barth Executive has been in constant use since 10 January 2019, flying mainly between the islands of Guadeloupe, Antigua, St. Martin and St. Barths. Feedback from customers is extremely positive. So much so that Vincent has already ordered from Epps Aviation, the Authorised Pilatus Centre for the Caribbean and the South East of the USA, a second brand-new PC-12 NG to be ready for the next high season, from November to May.
The second aircraft will include extended interior equipment allowing incorporation of a mobile stretcher for medevac missions if required. Vincent intends to make good use of the PC-12 NG’s legendary versatility and flexibility. He is looking forward to his second aircraft being delivered from Stans in June of this year. “The demand for medevac flights is already very high. I am in contact with the government authorities to find a way of providing these emergency services with our first PC-12 NG too.”
Appointment as official Pilatus Service Centre
Aware that things do not always go smoothly, even in paradise, St Barth Executive has taken steps to ensure it is accredited to do its own PC-12 maintenance work. As Vincent says: “Being far from everything, it was clear to me from the start that being independent in terms of aircraft maintenance was essential if we were to have any chance of success.” With that in mind, St Barth Executive set up its own maintenance operations with all the required approvals long before it started flying the PC-12 NG on a commercial basis. As an Authorised Pilatus Service Centre, the company can now perform maintenance work in Abymes on Guadeloupe, both on its own aircraft and on other EASA PC-12s. FAA approval for maintenance work on PC-12s from the United States should be granted shortly.