For over 20 years, Fast Air has developed itself into one of Canada’s leaders in executive aviation.
By Derek Gagnon
From its beginnings in 1995, Fast Air has grown, using several more planes and staffing more than 130 employees across five business units (aircraft charter, aircraft management, helicopters, medevac and maintenance).
“Fast Air started as a response to charter opportunities,” said Dan Rutherford, Fast Air’s manager of marketing and business development. “Fast Air owner and CEO, Dylan Fast, was a pilot flying for somebody else and saw an opportunity. He got permission from the owner to use their aircraft. That opportunity grew and the relationship continues to this day. We still manage one or two aircraft for that original company. Now we operate seven or eight jets, ten or eleven King Airs (Beechcraft) and service a whole number of sectors from government, to utilities, to manufacturers that are competing in the North American market and are based here in Winnipeg.”
Fast Air has also started maintenance and modification of Beechcraft King Air aircraft, a growing part of our business that is creating a lot of new jobs and opportunities.
“Fast Air started as an air charter business, and that is still a cornerstone of what we do, but now it is part of five business units,” said Rutherford. “There’s aircraft management, which allows a company to have an aircraft at their disposal without all the complications like crewing it, maintaining it, data communication to various authorities. We do all of that in-house, and provide a flight department of sorts for businesses.”
“Just the other day, one of the owners was here and he said ‘this aircraft is really a business tool for me. I’m able to do projects I could never do if I didn’t have it’.”
Chartered flights may not have the same prominence in Canada as they do in the United States, but their importance for businesses is equal.
“Charter gives access to many more airports than larger airliners,” said Rutherford. “We can go anywhere with a serviceable airport, which allows us to fly direct to many more locations.”
“Clients will say to us ‘tomorrow we need to go to Toronto, Atlanta and Phoenix’. So our team will be behind the scene dealing with all the customs, airports, hotels and fuel. This allows our clients to roll up in their cars and go, often taking a team of people with them.”
Rutherford adds that in the U.S. people have seen aircraft as a tool for doing business for some time now. In Canada, because it’s not done as often, there seems to be a perception that chartered flights are a perk for high-income earners.
“We’ve been working hard to try to change that perception,” said Rutherford. “Some of the owners of aircraft we are managing are key in the messaging when they tell other business owners ‘we are able to do business in ways we couldn’t before’ thanks to the use of chartered planes. It’s definitely an expense, but it opens opportunities that aren’t there otherwise.”
Purchase of Esso Avitat
As Fast Air has grown, aircraft management, aircraft maintenance, and medevac (at four locations with 24-hour flight and medical crews) have been added to the services it provides.
Fixed-based operator (FBO) Esso Avitat became available just down the road from Fast Air, so the company recently acquired the fuel supplier.
“It’s really a big benefit to have a fuel source we can have more control over,” said Rutherford. “We’re just in the process of our integration with the company. The integration has provided new opportunities and new jobs.
“The Esso Avitat has serviced the Winnipeg community for a long time. They’re a great company and a great addition to our group. Their whole team has stayed on and we’re excited to work with them.”
So what does the future have in store for Fast Air?
“We continue to upgrade our equipment, which keeps us competitive nationally,” said Rutherford. “Our growth over the last ten years can be attributed to great employees who provide good customer service. We constantly strive to improve our facilities and hire good people.”