There’s a new bird in the skies over Whitehorse, but at 746 kilometres per hour, it might be a little hard to spot.
Tintina Air’s newly acquired Cessna Citation corporate jet is the first of its kind in the territory, according to company owner Dave Sharp. That’s because, along with offering rapid service around the North, Tintina’s Citation isn’t picky about where you set her down.
“It’s set up to land on gravel runways, which is quite rare,” Sharp said.
“I’d guess that there’s probably less than 50 of them flying in the world.”
He’s got a point. Gravel-rated airliners are extremely rare, and the territory is looking to upgrade and pave the airstrip in Dawson City to better accommodate planes that can’t land on sand and dirt.
But that still leaves other communities across the Yukon and the North without a fast jet option, at least until now.
Corporate aviation isn’t quite the same as regular airlines. That’s something that one of Sharp’s partners, Capt. Tim Turner, knows quite well. He spent years flying corporate jets for South East Asian billionaires, and he learned a thing or two while doing it.
“For these people, it’s about time as much as it is about money. They can fly from Beijing to Hong Kong for a meeting, but most of the meeting actually takes place in the air, where they don’t have to whisper. They’re alone in a comfortable space and they can just do their work,” Turner said.
The same timesaving logic can be applied to government clients as well, he said. Turner gave the example of flying five bureaucrats to Iqaluit for a government meeting, a request they have already priced out.
If you sent the workers on a regular airline, it would take upwards of four or five days and $50,000 just for one meeting, he said. They’d have to fly at least to Yellowknife, then Ottawa, then up to Iqaluit, with hotel stays and all the flight time wasted on a crowded airliner.
Send them with Tintina’s eight-seat Citation, however, and they could go straight there without stopping. You could do the whole trip in two days instead of four. That’s a lot less overtime for the government to pay.
And finally, there is the Yukon’s high-end tourist market: powerful business people from Outside who want to come in, hunt some big game, and get out again fast.
“Some of these people have multi-million dollar businesses, and every day they’re sitting at a site waiting for a plane is lost opportunity for them,” Sharp said.
“We can say, we’ll get you to Seattle tonight. We’ll call you, you’ll walk straight onto our jet and you’ll be sitting in Seattle at 10 o’clock tonight,” he said.
The company hasn’t had a ton of demand for the jet just yet, but Sharp isn’t worried about it.
Tintina doesn’t actually own the jet. It’s owned by a silent partner who wanted to have a personal jet at his disposal in Whitehorse. The problem for him was that the annual costs of keeping a bird like that sitting in a hanger, much less flying around the North, can reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
So Sharp made him an offer: let Tintina lease and charter the jet as a way to recoup some of those costs, in exchange for taking care of the maintenance, storage and flying.
So far it seems to be working out pretty well.
“We’re not expecting this will be an aircraft that will do 300 hours a year. It’ll probably be closer to 100, but it’s a niche machine. I’m not looking at this year. I’m looking at this thing two or three years out. What are people going to be doing with it then?”
The company flies it at roughly the same price as a turbo prop like a King Air, only it’ll go much faster.
“Do you want to go to Old Crow faster? Do you want to go to Rankin Inlet without stopping in Yellowknife? Those are the kinds of scenarios they’re looking at.”