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52 COVER STORY
Effectively, Ambeo is creating its own investment fund, which will
raise the £30 million from several investors. The fund will then buy
the aeroplanes and lease them to the separately held operating
company. The fund will also take a small position in the operating
company so that it can benefit from profits as well as taking in
lease revenues. If the operating company were to fail, the fund
would still own the jets which it can then lease elsewhere or sell.
With residual values strong in the small jet market, the downside is
limited.
“The VLJ is effectively a disruptive technology,” Andy Black says,
looking across at a twin-prop Beechcraft King Air parked nearby.
“Noisy propeller-driven planes like the Beechcraft, which up to now
have been the affordable solution for private charters, are
effectively made obsolete by the arrival of the VLJ. With a
background in IT and software, I know what fantastic opportunities
are to be had with technologies that disrupt markets overnight.”
As an enthusiastic pilot himself and part-owner of an ancient Tiger
Moth, Black is also slightly in love with this fabulously cute little jet. He
has even flown it himself, as Frank Noppel recalls.
“We were taking off from Schipol,” he says, “with me in the back
and Andy in the co-pilot’s seat. Once we were airborne, I remarked
to Andy that the take-off had been a bit wayward. He then told me
that was because he had been flying it himself. His first ever jet
take-off. From a major international airport!”
Frank Noppel’s track record belies his 29 years. He is a brilliant PhD
scientist in his own right and has even patented a new jet engine
“The plane can
with Rolls-Royce which dramatically cuts emissions. In the past he
was also President of the Entrepreneurs Association at the Cranfield
do 425mph at
School of Management, so his qualifications for starting and
developing a radical new business are impeccable.
41,000 feet, which is
astonishing for such a
“I am very fortunate to be based at Cranfield University,” Noppel
says. “I had access to the best available aviation and
small craft and which
management skills I needed at the University’s departments. I have
travelled all over the USA, Asia and Europe and talked to hundreds
again explains the
of people in researching this project. It is an idea whose time has
definitely come.”
massive difference it
is about to make to
The timetable for starting operations is naturally dependent on
funding. With various regulatory hoops to dive through, the earliest
the marketplace.”
that flights could begin is late spring or early summer 2009. They
aim to start flying with two jets then add a new one every month
until the fleet is completed.
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