Norfolk joins jet set

Private jets were once the preserve of princes and playboys. But now Norfolk business people can enjoy a taste of the high life with the launch of the county's first executive jet charter aircraft.

Private jets were once the preserve of princes and playboys. But now Norfolk business people can enjoy a taste of the high life with the launch of the county's first executive jet charter aircraft.

Skydrift, based at Norwich International Airport, is offering the region's high rollers the chance to enjoy the champagne lifestyle enjoyed by the likes of David and Victoria Beckham, by hiring its £2m Cessna Citation executive jet.

The football star is reported to have spent £25,000 last month on a luxury private jet to whisk Victoria to Paris to celebrate her 33rd birthday.

A return flight in Skydrift's Cessna Citation to London City Airport would set you back a more modest £3,900, while a flight to Nice in the south of France would cost £7,000.

The Cessna aircraft, which is favoured by executives such as Sir Alan Sugar, star of BBC's The Apprentice, can fly up to seven passengers in comfort as far as North Africa before refuelling.

But the launch of the new service is unlikely to please the green lobby, which has been campaigning for people to cut carbon emissions by flying less frequently.

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Skydrift last year joined forces with Sterling Aviation to create the region's biggest aircraft charter operator and the company believes there is a growing market in Norfolk for luxury air travel.

As well as business people, it is targeting customers who want to organise special trips, such as birthday celebrations or skiing or fishing parties.

Gerry Hermer, managing director of Skydrift and Sterling Aviation, said: “We've been successfully running private charter services from Norwich International for more than 15 years. The expansion of our Skydrift fleet with the Citation V luxury jet reflects the increasing demand from our clients for a premium charter aircraft.

“Ours is the first executive jet for charter in this part of the region and is the fastest of our aircraft, with the greatest range; it flies non-stop to most destinations in western Europe which is important for businesses in our region that are increasingly operating on the continent.”

The executive jet market has been growing fast in recent years, with the number of flights growing by around 40pc between 2002 and 2006.

Airports such as Farnborough in Surrey and London City Airport have been booming on the back of rising demand for private jets.

Skydrift's nearest competitor is Marshall Executive Aviation, based at Cambridge Airport. Marshall Executive Aviation, which began operating in 2003, flies executives to destinations all over Europe and beyond.

Norfolk's relative proximity to London in flying time means that Skydrift is aiming to attract customers from the South East as well as Norfolk and Suffolk.

“We have lower running costs than if we were operating out of a London airfield so it means we can be competitive on price,” said Mr Hermer.

“The biggest benefit for people who fly with us is speed and convenience. They can arrive at our private facility, board the plane and be in the air in minutes. It's the same on arrival where you can step out straight into a waiting car.

“And if your meeting overruns the aircraft will wait. There are no long check-in queues or waiting around and you can go to and from a meeting in the same day which can actually save businesses time and money. Also for VIPs discretion is a very important consideration.”