We were recently invited to celebrate Malta-based Skyfirst’s 10th anniversary, which was postponed a year due to a very busy 2022 of aircraft management and charter activity.
Skyfirst’s energetic CEO, Olivier Perdriel, started at medevac firm Air Albatros, which prided itself on two-hour response times. At Skyfirst, he’s responsible for a world-class, rapid-response service culture.
The company operates four Falcons: three 7X jets and one 8X. The average leg length is four hours, with many flights of 10 hours or more. In fact, long-range, complex missions are a specialty. Olivier and his staff have a close relationship with Falcon Customer Service, sharing a “whatever it takes” philosophy.
This brings us to a recent Skyfirst AOG in Beijing supported by Dassault. Given the logistical challenges, there was a high chance of scrubbing a charter flight and disappointing a client. In the end, Skyfirst was a hero to its passengers. Here’s what happened.
The initial leg from Africa to Shenzhen, China, went well. This was followed by a repositioning flight to pick up the client in Beijing a few days later. En route, the crew received an EICAS alert on the landing gear system, requiring the backup measure of dropping the gear by gravity.
Arrival at Beijing was uneventful, but the plane was grounded. The time was 5 pm local with departure planned for 1 am two days hence—32 hours away. The clock was ticking.
The flight crew emailed a systems download to the Skyfirst maintenance team led by Jose Ugarte and the Falcon Command Center in Bordeaux-Merignac. Joint troubleshooting identified a failed hydraulic pack in the landing gear bay, a rare malfunction requiring replacement parts.
To preserve the charter commitment, technicians would need to scramble immediately from Paris to Beijing, parts in hand. A repair kit was assembled at Dassault’s main spares hub in Tremblay near Charles De Gaulle Airport. As parts were rushed to CDG, Dassault Falcon Service (DFS) mobilized two technicians, Adrien Franc and Romain Kerouredan. They quickly boarded a flight to Beijing with the parts and just minutes to spare.
On arrival, they were held up at Beijing customs for a few hours while paperwork was sorted out, adding to the time pressure.
They could possibly fly the aircraft on a brief hop, gear down, to Dassault’s ExecuJet MRO facility in nearby Tianjin, but the team encountered Chinese ATC complications. So ExecuJet loaded jacks (one ton each) and a hydraulics bench in a truck and headed for Beijing. Meanwhile, a local Skyfirst handling agent found the company space in a 747-sized hangar for repairs. Then, another challenge—the hydraulic bench didn’t fit the aircraft. So, DFS technicians improvised a modification.
And “just like that,” with support from the Mérignac Command Center, the CDG parts team, Falcon Customer Service Manager Nicolas Martin, ticket agents, handling agents, the head of a CDG VIP lounge who expedited our techs through the airport, a friendly hangar owner in Beijing and a resourceful crew at ExecuJet MRO Tianjin, Skyfirst’s Falcon was back in service.
The client was on his way home at 5 am local time, 36 hours after the aircraft had been declared AOG and just four hours after the scheduled departure time. The client group was amazed that the aircraft was repaired so quickly.
I think the moral of this story is that when Dassault and its operators work hand in hand like this, incredible things can happen. And routinely do. Thank you, Olivier, for your confidence in us and our superb relationship.
Senior Vice President, Worldwide Falcon Customer Service & Service Center Network
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