smart since 2005

Founder Mark Hawkins looks back at 16 years of Smart.

Smart Aviation turns 16 this week. We sat down with Smart’s Founder and Managing Director Mark Hawkins to take a look back at the highlights and challenges of the last 16 years.

Why did you decide to set up Smart Aviation?

I have been working in the aviation industry for the last 28 years, starting out at Air 2000 in 1993. At Excel Airways/Aviation I was pivotal in their sports charter’s operation and during the Champions League final in 2005, I chartered over 30 aircraft for Liverpool fans to attend the final. After three years, I decided that it was time to branch out on my own. My goal was to become one of the world’s leading charter providers and over the last 16 years, I am proud to say we have achieved that.

What been the key to Smart’s success?

Our initial success was down to our immense sports charter operation; sport has always been at the core of what we do. We had overnight success with that part of the business and have overseen thousands of flights to key fixtures and tournaments. ACMI still continues to part key to our business and lots of large airlines come to us with their AOG issues long and short term.

What’s been the most challenging part of the last 16-years?

I would have to say Covid has been the most challenging obstacle we have faced as a business. The different, constantly changing travel restrictions was the most challenging part but I’m pleased to say are continuing to navigate our way through the changes and feel confident that travel is finally returning and will continue to do so (fingers crossed).

What do you think has been Smart’s biggest achievement?

Building such a phenomenal and dedicated team is something I am immensely proud of. They have grown the business alongside me.  Chartering aircraft for some of the biggest sports names in the market and arranging a huge number of replacement aircraft during the Iceland ash cloud eruption in 2011, are also right up there.

What do you think has been the biggest change in the industry since Smart started?

The lack of charter airlines willing to operate during their peak season means adhoc flights have got less and less every year. We do work with several quality airlines who support us year-round, ensuring we can service our all-important clients.

How important is company culture to you and what measures do you take to maintain it?

Very important. Every new member of the team goes through induction training to ensure they deliver the highest level of communication and respect to all our partners. Every client must receive the ‘Smart Service’.

What are your long-term goals for Smart?

To continue to be right at the top of our game, grow the team and continue to be Smart.

60 second interview with Head of Business Development, Sam White

Sam White is Smart’s newest recruit, and she brings with her a wealth of experience from 25-years in the aviation industry.

Here’s 60-seconds with Sam, Smart’s Head of Business Development.

How long have you been at Smart Aviation?

I joined Smart in September 2020 from an aircraft charter company, where I spent 15 years managing the commercial client charter requirements.

What did you do before Smart?

I have been in the aviation industry since I graduated from the University of Greenwich with a degree in Leisure and Tourism. I always knew I wanted to work in aviation, and I got my first role at Cosmos in 1996 in the reservations department. From Comsos I joined the commercial airline Air 2000, which is where I first worked with Smart’s MD, Mark Hawkins. Shortly before Air 2000 folded in 2004, I had already made the decision that I wanted to move into the broking world. I got my first role as a broker in 2003 and then a few years later I was headhunted for a commercial role at another firm. I stayed there for 15 years.

What is your role at Smart?

As Smart’s Head of Business Development, I look for new business opportunities alongside building and maintaining relationships with our clients across all the industries on the commercial jet side of the business.

Why did you want to work in aviation?

The simple answer is I love planes. I have always been fascinated by them and my friends would most likely call me a plane geek. The Boeing 757-200 is my favourite plane. I will always be grateful to Cosmos for giving me my first step into the exciting world of aviation.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I love people as much as I love planes and I enjoy talking to all the different types of people that I do in this role. Building those relationships is very important to me. No two days at Smart are the same; I never know who I am going to pick the phone up to or who I will meet in person at the airport.

What’s been your proudest achievement at Smart?

I don’t have one specific achievement; I am genuinely just so proud to work here. I get a buzz every day when I get an enquiry from a client. I have brought lots of opportunities to the business this last year, which gives me great job satisfaction.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I love spending time with my children and walking our dog, Nelly, a one-year-old Cockapoo. I run regularly and am an avid skier. I can’t wait to get back on the slopes!

What one item do you rely on most to do your job?

It must be my extensive black book of contacts that I have built up over the years. I treasure the long-standing relationships that I have with my clients, and I relish regularly meeting new contacts in the industry.

How do you feel about being a woman in the aviation industry?

After 25 years in aviation, I would still say women are in the minority, but to me it’s not a negative thing. I have always worked in male dominated environments, and I enjoy that. It has certainly changed a lot over the years though. It’s getting more equal and there are opportunities for women in the industry if they want them. I would say 50% of my clientele are female and some prefer having that interaction with a woman. I am proud to work in the industry and I don’t feel at all disadvantaged in it being female.

 

Urgent recovery operation for 120 passengers

Unfortunately, it is no secret that the ACMI sector in our industry is currently quiet. This is due to airlines across the globe with reduced operations. Smart Aviation ACMI division are always ready to assist any of our clients.

Friday late evening, Smart Aviation received an urgent ACMI AOG request from one of our valued clients. Daniel Parker, Head of ACMI & Flight Operations Control was as ready as ever.

A320

The request was to transport 120 passengers finishing their holidays in the Greek Isles and flying them home to Scandinavia. Our ACMI specialist knew the perfect provider for this urgent recovery operation. Daniel located a 180 seat A320 narrow body aircraft via a trusted European provider. Working closely with both parties to ensure everything was set up for the operation, in just two hours following the call, the aircraft was launched from its base and on-route to rescue the operation.

“The industry has changed dramatically over the past 6 months due to COVID-19. A lot of UK and European airlines have sadly been lost in this time, and many trusted aviation colleagues have faced difficult times. I have maintained relationships with key contacts and never lost touch even during these difficult times. I always call to see how everyone is regardless of the situation. Myself and my team work to solve the problem together with our partners. We’ve always worked as an extension to their operations team,” commented Daniel.

Daniel worked closely with the partner to ensure no detail is missed. “Our main priority for any request is the safety of our passengers and to ensure all COVID-19 protocols are adhered to. We acted swiftly in providing a solution so that our client avoided putting the passengers in a hotel overnight. They were transported home as planned,” he said.

How do Smart Aviation respond so quickly to requests?

Smart are on hand 24/7. We understand that travel requests are not just Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm. Our specialist team are ready to assist and provide the best and most feasible solution to any request you have.

Smart Aviation to the rescue for last minute private jet request

Early Friday, Smart’s Head of VIP Charter – James Gregory was contacted by a client who was let down by another option.

Just 60 minutes from receiving the call to agreeing final details our satisfied client had one thing less to worry about for his trip. James found the perfect aircraft that fit the client’s budget and was suitable for their planned schedule of three various locations.

Citation III

Smart Aviation have been established for 15 years and our brokers are specialists in their areas. Managing Director, Mark Hawkins founded the company in 2005 and has grown an experienced team at Smart headquarters. James has over 9 years’ experience in the industry and has reputable relationships and contacts with the best and reliable partners.

“My heart always goes to those clients who say to me that another option has let them down. And sadly, I have heard this far too many times. It’s important to research who you are booking with. At Smart Aviation we have a fantastic relationship with our partners and our clients are always at the heart of what we do. We ensure our client is presented with an honest choice,” said James Gregory.

Our long-standing partners at North Flying went over and beyond as always. The client travelled on the Citation III which provides a luxuriously large cabin, mini bar, comfortable leather seats, tables and more.

With ongoing changes for travel restrictions due to COVID-19, a lot of our current private jet requests are last minute. With our experience we are able to find the right aircraft at the right price. Arranging a last-minute getaway or future travel plans, contact Smart Aviation for a non-obligatory quote today. We have the very best deals available to suit all budgets.

Music tours in the making

The fast-paced world of music charters

Our resident charter broker to the stars, James Gregory, gives us an insight into his experience chartering private jets for music tours.

“One of my first charter requests was a 17-sector music tour across the United States for a multi-award-winning band. It fixed and flew within a few days and I was instantly drawn into the fast-paced world of music charters. Since then I have worked with bands, DJs, Hollywood stars and everything in-between; I’ve never looked back.

Over this time I have learnt very quickly just what it takes to manage tours with a high intensity of flying. From just a simple email with show dates I can build a full flight itinerary – I’ll work out all the details, including nearest airport to the venue, approvals for extending airport hours (for out-of-hours departures and arrivals), driving times from hotel to airport to venue – and I’ll make sure there is no stone left unturned so every detail is attended to.

I also understand the importance of communication. If you have to ask me ‘James, is everything ready?’ then I have failed. Five hours before departure, I’ll check the weather report and inform you of any turbulence to be expected or avoided. I’ll let you know when the flight crew are at the aircraft preparing for the flight and when they are fully ready for the arrival of the passengers. If you aren’t travelling with the party, then I’ll inform you when passengers are boarding and, of course, the exact flight departure and arrival times.

Finding the perfect jet

Aircraft selection is the single most important factor; aircraft suitability can make or break a tour and an unhappy artist is not good for anyone. I take time to understand a client’s needs and ultimately offer the best private jet for their requirements. Over the course of my career I’ve got to know the aircraft and operators most suited to music tours. Of course, not all private jets are configured in the same way and getting on-board the actual aircraft gives me the knowledge to be able to confidently advise clients of the best charter options on the market.

My job is to take as much pressure off tour managers as possible, so everyone can focus on the shows and I will do everything possible to make this happen – I understand that there is no room for error. Our operational support team is on-hand 24/7/365, to deal with anything unexpected and keep you flying – for total peace of mind.”

Contact James directly – james.gregory@smart-aviation.co.uk or call +44 (0)1293 551244.

Connect with James on LinkedIn.

Smart Aviation

Smart Aviation