On June 19, 2013, largely unnoticed by the 3,000+ journalists attending the 2013 Paris Air Show, an event took place on the Daher-Socata stand that marked a significant milestone in European business aviation. On that day au Bourget, the French civil aviation authority, DGAC, issued the first Air Operators Certificate permitting single-engine public transport flights in IFR conditions. Previously, passenger-carrying SE-IFR flights had been forbidden throughout the European Union.
Applauding the 20-year lobbying campaign that had preceded that milestone event was Frédéric Caussarieu, CEO of Rennes-based VolDirect, which since 2012 has operated a TBM 850 single-engine turboprop. The company is also the first French commercial operator approved to employ iPad 3 electronic documentation instead of printed aeronautical charts.
“[It was] a long road but it does really help to create a secure operation and it does really create a much more competent organization,” he says. “Now that we have this AOC we can expand… to more areas from which we are going to operate, with more aircraft, and more business.”
VolDirect was founded in 2009, when Caussarieu, a former executive at several large companies in the telecommunications industry, and Jean Paul Legendre, an entrepreneur and head of a large construction company and property development business that required him to travel frequently throughout Europe, got together after noting the absence of an effective aviation service business in Brittany. Their company, which offers on-demand charters, now employs six people.
“I graduated from an engineering university in telecommunications and computer science,” Caussarieu told ShowNews. “When I got my first job, back in 1980, I went to the nearest aero club in Brittany and spent most of my salary on flying lessons. I got my instrument rating in 1985, and myand professional pilot licenses in the 2000s. In between, I flew 2,500 flight hours in my own airplanes – a Piper PA-28, Socata Trinidad and a 414 twin – for my business and personal needs. The next natural move has been to upgrade to the TBM.”
The AOC process involved four VolDirect staff and took over two years, but Caussarieu says he “would not turn back to what it was before, even if I was aware of the length of the road that we had to go through to get the private operation to the commercial and public.”
“The TBM is easy to fly, comfortable, fast and extremely reliable.” Caussarieu says. “You feel safe in such an airplane, whatever the weather and the trip. It is really a professional tool. TBM usage had been extended to a few more local businesses, but the demand had been so high that turning into commercial transport [with SE-IFR approval] was the only way to go forward.”
The future? “VolDirect’s plans are to grow, with additional airplanes located in new business areas, leveraging on cost-efficient single-engine turboprop planes,” Caussarieu says. “In the long run, fuel efficiency will be a major challenge for this industry, and the TBM has a key advantage compared to the more traditional twins and jets.”