Sustainability at heart of new ‘ConnectSkies’ business
In 2019, Gabriella Somerville, pioneering founder of charter and sales agency representation business ConnectJets, found herself flat on her back following major surgery. That lengthened hospital stay gave her time to reprioritise, create and narrate a new road map.
“Entrepreneurs are time poor when working on future projects, but they excel when given a problem to solve,” she says, resiliently. Aviation was getting turbulent toward the end of last year, exacerbated by negative (mainstream) press and environmental rebellion, Gabriella reflected. And then, along came the Coronavirus pandemic.
This was the catalyst for determining her new business, ConnectSkies.
With a website set to go live imminently, ConnectSkies is centred on championing technology. It will showcase in an impartial, independent way, the most sustainable aircraft for sale, on the market today and sustainable programmes.
“We will have two virtual showrooms,” explains Gabriella. The first will exhibit existing fuel-efficient models such as the Avanti EVO / Pilatus PC-12 and Embraer Phenom 300 and HondaJet. The second will look at future advancements – from e-VTOLS, electric/hybrid propulsion and other variant models under development, rated by their sustainability credentials.
Connect Skies is keen to work with fleet operators too, serving as their sales and marketing arm as they start integrating game-changing new programmes to market.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity to launch a new platform and we will do things differently. Aviation is in reset mode. We need to press that reset button now and embrace a new way of doing business. Collaboration and partnerships will be important. We need to be less inward-looking, embrace blue sky thinking, innovation and smart technology,” she said.
Drawing on her decade in business aviation and prior to that decades in commercial aviation, Gabriella believes brokerage and sales agency models “need to adapt and give more recognition to start-ups and individuals trying to make positive changes in our industry.” ConnectSkies’ mission is to make aviation a friend, not foe. “We can only do that with support from every sector within our industry, so, please support us,” she asks.
ConnectSkies will feature an e-magazine, focusing on sustainability, new products, innovations and sustainable fuels. Called The Wire, it will cover safety, democratization, infrastructure, urban mobility, FBOs, fleet programmes and the future of aviation.
“We can’t expect the public to accept and adapt to e-VTOLs, the electrification of aircraft overnight, nor understand the make-up of biofuels or how the integration of such vehicles will affect their lives. It’s like putting the carthorse before the horse,” she concurs.
A UK newspaper covering a new e-VTOL programme drew a number of negative comments. Most of them were valid given the fact that the article created more questions than answers Whilst every manufacturer wants to see their new prototype. featured in the press, the narrative should not negatively influence the very audience we want to attract, but be carefully conveyed, says Gabriella.
ConnectSkies will work with e-VTOLs, electric aircraft manufacturers and OEMs, helping them prepare the ground for this paradigm change. “The only way to win early adopters to accept the new norm is by educating them precept by precept,” she says.
ConnectSkies will be run by a multi-disciplinary team. Reina Rose joins the team as business development director, based in Los Angeles. We will also be recruiting a further fleet and aircraft sales broker, commercial and marketing director. With such a vision we need a credible and resilient team to manage the future,” Gabriella highlights.
Sister company ConnectJets, meanwhile, partnered with Volanteus Aviation last year. “The tie up allowed us to expand the network, add a commercial department to our offering and enabled us to work more efficiently.” Any ConnectSkies’ charter activity will also be managed under the ConnectJets / Volanteus department.
ConnectSkies website goes live on September 14.