For Hire

Tony Carder joined AirTanker Services’ as its new Director of Leasing in October. He explains why he believes AirTanker delivers a step change in ACMI wide-bodied aircraft leasing.

“It’s a blank piece of paper”, says Tony Carder, AirTanker Services’ new Director of Leasing, “we’re  completely open minded about what shape the business takes, we can be as flexible as  the market requires, short term, long term agreements, lease, sub service or charter, single class or multiple class configurations. We may not be unique in our capacity to deliver it but at present, it’s a unique proposition, with brand new aircraft and a product tailored to meet the customer’s requirements”. 

Tony joined AirTanker at the beginning of October from Atlas Air, his role heading-up the carrier’s sales and marketing function in the EMEIA region, providing a strong grounding for his new position at the helm of AirTanker’s evolving leasing business. This is the latest in a series of appointments in a career spanning three-decades in the aviation industry, including commercial and operational positions with Channel Express and Cathay Pacific Airways.

“We are a start-up leasing business”, continues Tony, “but we’re a start-up leasing business with a 14 strong fleet of brand new aircraft, incredible depth of experience, established operating infrastructure focused on safety and quality and unparalleled financial stability.”


AirTanker reached a major milestone in July this year with the arrival of the ninth Voyager aircraft into RAF Brize Norton, completing the ‘core fleet’.  The five Voyager/A330-200 aircraft, which will be delivered into RAF Brize Norton as part of the FSTA Contract between now and the end of 2016, make up a surge capability – there for the RAF and MOD to use if required but available to AirTanker to lease and operate in the commercial market or for other military opportunities.

This could include the provision of additional services to the RAF and the MOD or other nations, in either a military or civil capacity, or stripped of military equipment, the lease of aircraft in a civil A330-200 configuration.  

As we sit a stones’ throw away from RAF Main Building and sharing a base with its Air Transport Command, it is, however, apparent that neither AirTanker or its new Director of Leasing have forgotten why the business came into existence: “The RAF and the MOD are our primary customer and our first aim is to work with them to get best use and consequential return, from the Voyager fleet and provide the core customer with additional flexibility and capability. We are also exploring other opportunities with other potential customers in both military and civil capacities to maximise usage of the fleet as a whole.

“It’s something that was always envisaged as part of the contract and other than for the service which it supports, the way we are set up is not hugely different to a standard ACMI leasing operation. In the commercial world you ideally have a large scale core customer and then a mix of other business in several market environments. Operating and maintaining the aircraft and delivering a high quality reliable service to the customer is the same philosophy whether it’s the RAF or a commercial airline customer”.


Under the terms of the ground-breaking three-year deal, the first of these aircraft will be leased in a civil A330 set-up from May next year to Thomas Cook Airlines.

Delivered directly to AirTanker from Airbus, military equipment will be removed by AirTanker and the cabin will be reconfigured to a Thomas Cook Airlines 323 seat premium economy & economy class layout. The aircraft will be operated by AirTanker under its civil Air Operator’s Certificate, in support of scheduled routes from Glasgow, Manchester and Stansted to Las Vegas, Cancun and Orlando.

FACTBOX: AirTanker A330-200 aircraft availability (note, this does not reflect aircraft delivery dates):

       Dec 2015

       Feb 2016

       Sept 2016

       End of 2016

“For me this is one of the unique selling points in almost all ACMI leasing agreements you get a standard or pre-set configuration. We have a standard 291 seat configuration that the aircraft is delivered to us in but what we’re saying to the market is ‘give us your requirement and we’ll work with you to provide the aircraft in your preferred brand and layout’, that’s irrespective of whether its economy, business class or anything else, if the demand is there we’ll work with the client to deliver it”, says Tony.

He continues: “The cabin is where it happens, it’s the customers brand and product and the touch-point with their customer.  It’s what makes the difference, after all an A330 is an A330, but from a wet leasing perspective it’s giving the customer the ability to make the aircraft cabin the same as one of their own fleet that is really appealing. We’re going to the market with the ability to perfectly reflect the brand identity of the individual carriers that we work with” 

FACTBOX: AirTanker A330-200 standard configuration:

       291 single economy class in an eight abreast 2-4-2 configuration

       2 or 3 class cabin options available for scheduled operations

       Standard Airbus commercial seating, featuring a 34inch pitch (leg room)

       In Flight Entertainment system

Reliability and on time performance is ‘a given’. “As an ACMI operator we have to provide value to the customer both from a product perspective but also in terms of performance and reliability”.  This is something where Tony points out that AirTanker’s expertise in support of the RAF adds value to its proposition in the civil market.

“We’re working with our core customer, the RAF, which by the very nature of what it does, demands a high level of reliability and flexibility but which also means that we operate in an environment where safety is absolutely paramount. This translates directly into our ACMI operating philosophy and we will have the benefit of scale of operating a fleet of fourteen aircraft.” 

Flexibility is an inherent part of AirTanker’s USP, extending far beyond cabin configurations and operational service to the very core product offer. “We’re able to work with clients in a variety of ways: long term contracts, mid-term and short-term; and sub-service agreements when a carrier needs replacement or additional capacity, often at short notice”, says Tony.

He continues: “We’re not tied in to a specific model although ultimately we would expect to see some form of mixed solution of longer and shorter term agreements and charter, sub-service type operations.”


So what of the timing of AirTanker’s decision to enter the civil leasing market? Monarch announced earlier this year its decision to pull out of the long haul and charter market from April 2015, so does this mean that there’s an over-capacity?

“The timing is in fact very good”, says Tony, “Carriers are now starting to plan their 2016 schedules and if anything, the Monarch announcement creates opportunities, particularly because we are introducing brand new aircraft into the market.

“The A330-200 is a proven airframe, with over 500 aircraft in service with over 70 operators and the appetite for it is still very much there, you only need to look at the order stream that is coming in for the Neo - the demand for an efficient  wide-bodied long and regional airframe is still there. We’re offering exactly that, a brand new aircraft with all of the efficiencies and economies of operation that go with that e.g. brand new and market leading Trent 700 engines.

“There are some carriers who have substantial fleet renewal or growth policies, so there are second hand aircraft becoming available in the ACMI market but these are older airframes with high hours and cycles, so it’s a very different proposition to the one that we’re able to offer. We are confident there is a space in the market for our product and capability and we are very excited and optimistic about the future.”

To find out more please visit Alternatively please contact Tony Carder, Director of Aircraft Leasing, t. +44 (0) 1993 873000, m. +44 (0) 7801 531298 e.

11 November 2014