By Shirley Render
“Job preservation is what prompted me to form my own company,” said Dylan Fast, President and CEO of Fast Air. In fact, it was more than that. An entrepreneur at heart, Dylan wisely realized that there was no one around that offered executive charters. He saw a niche to be filled and acted.
It was 1995 when Dylan and his brother formed the Winnipeg based air charter service. It was nothing fancy. The address was rented space at 5 Allen Dyne Road on the east side of James A. Richardson International Airport and their one plane was a leased Piper Cheyenne. However, within two months they bought a second aircraft, a Piper Navajo, and by the following summer leased or purchased more aircraft to keep up with the demand. I didn’t take on business just for the sake of becoming bigger,” explained Dylan. “Providing good service was the priority. But we kept track of all the business we were turning down.”
And so, in 1999 another major decision was made. Having run out of space and once again wanting to have more control over operations, Dylan decided to build on the south side of the airport. A year later Fast Air moved into its new 13,000 square foot hangar with another 3500 square feet dedicated to office space. Having its own private business-class terminal was a huge plus.
Fast Air aggressively promoted the fact that it was the only charter airline in Winnipeg that operated from its own private terminal and made sure that potential clients knew that it offered flexible departure times, no line-ups or missed connections or lost bags, free parking and boarding the aircraft within minutes of parking and complimentary meals and refreshments. Fast Air’s website said it best – “You’ll love it all – from the free parking to our freshly baked cookies, our private terminal offers a refreshing change from busy airport.” Obviously customers were impressed and business increased and once again Fast Air expanded, completing its second new hangar, 18,000 square feet, in 2007.
What began as a very lean operation has grown to become the largest fleet of business aircraft in Manitoba. Fast Air now flies from the High Arctic to Central America, the Caribbean. On occasion Dylan will ferry aircraft to Africa. While executive charters are its prime focus, Fast Air also provides aircraft management, corporate aircraft maintenance programs, aviation consulting and operates a 24-hour MedEvac division throughout Manitoba from bases in Thompson and Norway House.
The MedEvac service was established in 2003. It has a full complement of skilled medical staff and uses King Air 200 aircraft (outfitted with the latest in medical technology to ensure safety) for remote fixed wing air ambulance operations. With its strong medical infrastructure and state-of-the-art medical equipment, Fast Air’s medical staff can handle adult, pediatric and critical care patients. Dr Johan Jacobs, Medical Director, has over 15 years of medical experience including extensive experience in northern Manitoba as well as his own private practice in Winnipeg, making him well qualified for his role with Fast Air. Similarly, the Director of the Air Ambulance Services, Tim Hague, RN, brings with him a wide range of experience. Nurses are certified in emergency/critical care, basic cardiac life support, advanced cardiac life support, trauma nursing care as well as the Canadian Aerospace Medicine & Aeromedical Transport.
Fast Air is currently involved in two major long term Manitoba Hydro contracts, one awarded in December and the Hydro Kelsey station awarded in 2006.
Setting Fast Air apart from others is that it specializes in providing Aircraft Management solutions to businesses. As the website explains, with its in-house maintenance and team of professionals, it can offer turn-key management programs tailored to a customer’s specific needs. If required, Fast Air will also assume full responsibility of the day-to-day operation and management of a customer’s aircraft. In addition, if a customer has thought about buying an aircraft for personal or company use but felt it was too large an investment, Fast Air has an Aircraft Charter Leaseback Option. This allows Fast Air to charter the aircraft thus offsetting the aircraft operating expenses and reducing the cost of private aircraft ownership.
From its beginnings with two pilots who did everything from booking to flying, Fast Air’s staff has grown to over 60 employees that include 25 pilots, a General Manager, Director of Maintenance, Operations Manager, Finance Manager, MedEvac Director, Production Manager, Sales & Logistics Manager, Inventory Logistics Manager, Accounting Clerk as well as individuals handling Charter Reservations & Dispatch, Passenger Reception and Quality Assurance.
The fleet consists of 2 Westwinds, 2 Cheyennes, 6 King Airs and 3 Navajos. With a staff component that thoroughly covers flying and behind-the-scenes operations and 13 aircraft which includes a mixture of jets, turbo-props and piston engines, it is easy to understand why Fast Air has established such a good reputation.
Indeed as Dylan explained, “I try to win my customers on service, not on price,” although he was quick to say, “I try to be competitive because in Winnipeg the rates are so competitive.”
Safety is one of Fast Air’s top priorities. Anthony Dyck, Director of Maintenance, brings with him over many years of experience in general aviation, helicopters and commercial aircraft. Fast Air handles it own maintenance and turns to others such as Aero Recip for major overhauls. “I’m pleased with their service. They are always there for parts, even after-hours. That’s important for us,” said Dylan.
I had a difficult time catching up with Dylan. It seemed as if he was always flying. I had wondered how this President and CEO with his background of bush flying, crop dusting and corporate flying would like flying a desk. As it turns out, Dylan has the best of both worlds. “One of the reasons he hired me was so I could be in the office,” explained Ray Snaith, General Manager, with a laugh. “Dylan loves to fly. We tag team, although I don’t fly as much as he does!”
To what does Fast Air owe its success? “One of the things we’ve tried to instill in our employees is that we want to be the best that we can be. That may sound arrogant because there are other good operators around. Our goal is to offer a very high standard of service, “ explained Ray Snaith. It is evident that Dylan’s careful expansion has paid off. Growth has been steady and Fast Air has an excellent reputation.