As one of the largest private jet operators in Europe, it is not surprising that our business demands can be quite changeable. With this in mind it is no surprise that we have seen requests for managing aircraft that are not based in the UK.
In March this year, I had to undertake the setting up arrangements for an aircraft joining our fleet that would be based in Tallinn. This would be an entirely new base for us. At the time I headed to Tallinn, the aircraft was in the US with one of our crews, doing a range of flight tests and pre-flight checks prior to going transatlantic and positioning the new Legacy 650 to the UK, so the time pressure to have everything in place was quite high.
It was in March that this trip was to take place, and Tallinn was experiencing a maximum daily temperature of -10°C, so my early morning flight from London Gatwick on Air Estonia, would certainly mean a slight shock to the system on disembarkation with such temperatures. Nevertheless, this was to be my first visit Estonia, and albeit a very short visit, I was looking forward to the experience and seeing how the country had developed since its independence from Soviet rule.
Prior to my arrival in Tallinn, we had been liaising with the handling agents that operated at the airport, and had decided from the offers we had received, which agent we intended to use. On arrival at Tallinn, which had stayed true to the weather forecast, it was apparent that this was not a location that many private jets were based. The Legacy we would have based there would most likely be the largest private jet owned and based in Estonia.
On arrival in the terminal I was met by the representative of the handling agent that we had identified as most suitable. It soon became apparent that there were very keen to secure our business, and wanted to ensure that I felt welcome during my stay and covered all the areas that I needed to.
As I had been flying since early morning, first stop was for lunch! I was taken to a very smart restaurant in the town centre, which supplies catering to the private jets passing through Tallinn. The quality of the food was absolutely exceptional, and they too wanted to impress, producing a pasta based starter with Périgord truffle, followed by freshly caught Sea Bass which had been cooked encrusted in a salt layer. Eating such exceptional food whilst snow was falling outside was an experience I will always remember.
Caterer sorted, it was time to return to the airport for a meeting at the handling agents offices, to introduce the LEA to them, and vice versa. We also discussed our expectations and requirements for the aircraft. This was followed by a guided tour of the airport, and the facilities that we could make use of. Whilst a relatively small airport, it was apparent that all we needed could be provided.
It was now time to head to the hotel for a few hours. The hospitality continued and as we were looking for a hotel for our crew, I had requested being booked into the one that looked most suitable. On arrival, I had been upgraded and had a room on the 16th floor, overlooking the town. It is very apparent in Tallinn the mix between the buildings from the Soviet era, and those built after. Even to the extent that you can drive down a road and have buildings from one era on one side and buildings from the present era on the other.
After a few hours of rest, I was collected from the hotel by my hosts, and taken into town for an evening at an Irish pub. An Irish Pub in Tallinn is certainly an experience, but business done, it was great to be able to relax, chat and have a few beers whilst watching some local football on the big screen.
After such a long day, but a productive one, it was back to the hotel for my early morning departure back to the UK via Amsterdam. The aircraft arrived at this new base a week later.
By Leigh Westwood