Jonny Greenall is ready to take off into the post-Covid era with an exciting expansion plan for Balearic Helicopters and the arrival of a luxury five-seater Eurocopter EC120.
Jonny was born to fly. He has been flying helicopters for the best part of 22 years, but his first flying experience was with the Air Cadets in Chipmunks and Vigilant Gliders. Now, with over 7,000 flying hours under his belt, he says there is no better time to move forward.
“The pandemic has obviously been extremely frustrating; still is. Last year, flying time was some 70 per cent less than usual; clients quite simply were unable to get here from other parts of the world. But instead of sitting at home crying about it, I decided to make the most of the lockdown and think about the business and our future. It’s something I’ve never really had the time to do. It’s normally hands-on, flying, training and running the business. I’ve never really had the time to sit back and think about the business and plan for the future. That is exactly what I’ve done, and we have a very exciting project ready to take off once we can all get flying again, especially our clients.”
Jonny has lived in Majorca since 1993 and learnt to fly the Robinson R22 & R44 with Sloane Helicopters Mallorca. He then went on to complete his Commercial Helicopter Licence and Instructor Rating with Sloane Helicopters (at Sywell and in Majorca). Jonny also has his JAA fixed wing licence. He has been flying in Majorca since 1999 as well as having made numerous trips around Europe and the UK. Jonny is also a Core Team Member of EHEST - the European Helicopter Safety Team.
After obtaining his licence, he began working for Sloane Helicopters Mallorca in 2004 and was the Base Manager of Sloane Helicopters Mallorca from 2008 until 2015, which is when he took over the outfit and launched Balearic Helicopters, which has gone from strength to strength every year.
And now, to ensure that growth continues, Jonny has not only leased a five-seater luxury Eurocopter EC120, he is also planning on expanding operational bases in Europe. Jonny will be collecting the new Eurocopter from Germany in April and the new helicopter is going to be the foundation for a bespoke luxury service the island has never seen before.
“The new helicopter will be used primarily for the various tours we offer of the island, be they to the best restaurants, hotels and vineyards or sightseeing and transfers from Palma airport’s private jet terminal to hotels, villas or yachts,” Jonny said.
One potential problem was Brexit, but Jonny explained that the entire operation at Balearic Helicopters is now Spanish. The helicopters have been registered in Spain. His and staff’s pilot licences have been swapped over. They have their Spanish Flight Training Approval, Jonny is an official Spanish flight examiner. He was very keen to stress how professional, helpful and quick the Spanish aviation authorities were in carrying out the process. What he had feared would be a bit of a nightmare turned out to be a very smooth and simple process.
What Jonny does not see, however, is a rapid return of family package holidays as the islands start to reopen to tourism. “I think that the first people on flights or private jets will be the top end; that is going to be good news for us.
“The private jet sector has experienced a massive upturn in business as a result of the pandemic. People value their health and safety a great deal and those who can afford it are opting for private jet travel to destinations like Majorca. It means they can avoid hanging around airports for hours and then travel with their bubble. Having spoken to many of our clients, it is the wealthy second home and yacht owners who we expect to see arriving in Majorca first. That top-end market is one we’ve seen grow steadily over the years here at Son Bonet and is one we want to cater for even more, hence the new Eurocopter.
“And with so much experience here at Balearic Helicopters, we’re now facilitating the superyachts which are served by helicopters. We are helping pilots ensure they have all the required paperwork, etc. so that the superyacht owners have nothing to worry about. We are now the first port of call for anyone planning on operating a helicopter in Majorca, or Spain for that matter. We are making a serious investment in the future and our aim is to offer a five-star service to clients who are accustomed to five-star living.
“Our flight training centre obviously caters for an extremely broad base of students of all nationalities and ages, although some of them were not even born when I started flying. What is a very important factor is that we offer a wealth of experience, so should anyone wish to charter a helicopter, first and foremost it is their own for the duration of their flight. All Covid protocols are complied with, the helicopter is swabbed down and sterilised and no one will be flying with a stranger.
“For those wishing to fly solo, then we act as tour guides, if you like. We will take the passenger seat, take care of all communications with the control tower and pre-flight checks etc. If the client doesn't know the island, we will point out all the best sights and hidden treasures while explaining the history and many secrets Majorca holds.
“I have also been asked to rewrite the European Flight Training Manual, which is an honour to say the least but also recognition of the experience, expertise and reputation Balearic Helicopters has.
“As you can see, we have not been resting on our laurels, we’ve been putting together a very ambitious project for the future. Yes, I guess there are a few green shoots and we’re taking bookings already for the summer. But I honestly can’t see things really taking off and returning to whatever the normal is going to be until next year.
“At least we're no longer going to be haemorrhaging money like many other businesses on the island over the past year, but we won’t be flying all day, every day until 2022. This will be a year of recovery but with our new plan in action, I think we’ll be able to use this year to promote and demonstrate what we have to offer and that it can’t be found anywhere else in the Balearics, perhaps not even in Spain. All we’re waiting for now is the all-clear for take off so we can provide our clients with the training and experience of their lives.”