Interview With Stewart Borg, Metrojet Lead Captain G650 / Manager, Flight Training And Licensing
Interview by Litalia Yoakum
At 16 years old, Australia born Stewart Borg embarked on his flying career — one that would lead him to be one of Australia’s youngest chief flying instructors of his time and one of the youngest pilots at the time to fly Gulfstream’s GIV at 23. Now with over 18 years and 7000 hours in Gulfstream aircraft, he is trying to make a difference in passing on his experience and passion to young aviators. His passion for flying ultimately led Stewart to Hong Kong, where he is now working with Metrojet as a G650 Lead Captain, as well as the Manager of Flight Training and Licensing. Stewart’s passion for flying, and aviation, has now encouraged him to inspire the future generation of pilots.
Tell me about your early years in aviation.
I always wanted to be a pilot. So, at 13, I joined as a Cadet of the Air Training Corps – a youth program of the Royal Australian Air Force. I was in this program through to when I was 20.
The program sponsored a flying competition at one point, offering the top three competitors free fuel for the remainder of their training — paid for by the Royal Australian Air Force. I came in the top three and went through to a commercial pilot license, instructor and instrument rating.
What attracted you to business aviation?
It was an encounter with someone during my career that led me toward this route. My age was young to be getting into business aviation. Typically, this was something for those who had already had a successful career with the commercial airlines and were then going into retirement.
The route I took to get there was different than most. After some time in University, I realized that was not what I wanted. So, from there, I became a member of the County Fire Authority, as a firefighter. During this time, I met then Chief Engineer now Aviation Manager Mike Carney of Crown Casino’s Flight Department who introduced me to the world of business aviation.
Before business aviation, I started my professional career as a flying instructor in Melbourne Australia I worked for a company called Wings Air, which quickly grew in its time to a large training organization in Australia. Due to a busy flying schedule and great opportunity was equipped me to rise to chief flying instructor.
Whilst still working as an instructor, I was also flying as First Officer on a medivac Learjet, which quickly became a Captain seat position on a Lear 35. After becoming a commander on the Learjet I left flying instructing and soon began flying a Gulfstream GIV at 23 which in the early 2000’s was quite young to be flying such a sophisticated business jet on a very busy international operation. I was flying between Melbourne and a significant number of Asian capitals for the next four years.
How did you end up in Hong Kong?
Prior to leaving Australia, I was flying a Gulfstream GIV in Sydney.
When Metrojet was just starting out with its management business I made the move to Hong Kong. In 2005, they acquired the first G450 in Asia, which was also the first PlaneView aircraft in Hong Kong. I helped deliver the G450, which was the company’s first managed aircraft and was integral to Metrojet’s early success
I’ve now been with Metrojet for over 13 years. Aside from flying duties I am the Manager of Flight Training and Licensing. My team and I are responsible for all training and licensing needs at Metrojet. I’m also very fortunate to be a Lead Captain on one of only two Hong Kong registered G650ER’s. I’m also an Authorized Examiner for the HKCAD for the Gulfstream G450/550 and hold HKCAD test pilot approval for the Gulfstream G450, G550 and G650ER.
Did you ever consider airline flying?
My personality is that I want to do more than just fly the airplane and I very much enjoy the customer service and the business of business aviation. Business Aviation and aircraft management companies can give a pilot different and exciting opportunities both in and out of the cockpit which may not be available in the airlines.
In business aviation, successful Lead Captains and their supporting pilots do much more outside of the cockpit than some may think — Flight planning, on trip operational challenges, customer service, invoice overview, maintenance management and liaising with the aircraft owner about upcoming trips are just some of the facets faced on a daily basis.
How has the pilot shortage impacted business aviation?
The pilot shortage is causing significant challenges to the aviation industry in general and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Back in 2005 to land a job on the then new model Gulfstream G450 you needed thousands of hours on Gulfstream aircraft, and significant worldwide experience. Operators could be very selective about who they hired. Since that time, the talent pool which was once abundant has become scarce due to retirements and the significant expansion of our industry as a whole. Increasingly pilots who would have had applied for positions in business aviation are now either being taken by mainline airlines or joining low-cost carriers (LCCs).
What other challenges are business aviation pilots facing?
Currently there are a lot more airplanes being built, particularly because of LCCs, than there are airports. So, in business aviation, we are fighting for an ever-diminishing resource. Managing aircraft slots in Hong Kong and throughout the region has been challenging. Parking is especially a problem for jets like the G650 and Global series due to their larger parking footprint.
This is a daily focus for me. The appeal for business aviation is the flexibility of schedules, but this has been curtailed in the last two years because of slot restrictions, especially in Hong Kong. I have to target slots before they become available and outside of the 14-day window. This is ultimately what management companies’ success is judged on; what can and cannot be done for clients.
As a Lead Captain, considerations are made toward service onboard, reliability of an aircraft, maintenance and slots. These are challenges that did not exist 10 years ago but have since become the most important factors to consider. Safety above all else is of paramount importance and is always at the top of any agenda.
What does the future hold for business aviation?
Business aviation will face a lot of challenges in the very near future and most of them will come from slot and parking restrictions. These challenges could potentially curtail the industry, with clients seeing that business jets are not as flexible as they previously thought.
It is also vital for people outside of the industry to see the value of business aviation. The industry needs to work hard in the future to change the extravagant perception of business aviation.
As far as the pilot shortage, operators, like Metrojet, will be heavily investing in young people to give them a path way in our dynamic industry. Most mainstream carriers already have Cadet Programs in place and business aviation operators need to follow suit.
What is your plan for the future?
I’ll stay on with Metrojet as a Training Manager because I believe Metrojet’s initatives and training programs are integral to our business. The company is becoming a leader in this aspect, with training courses tailored to the industry.
With the company, I’d like to enhance these programs and hope that other operators and companies throughout the region will follow.
Metrojet’s training department established the first Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department (HK CAD) approved in-house Aviation First Aid course back in 2017. Apart from covering essential techniques, the training includes case studies which are relevant to business jet operations.
Following this success, Metrojet rolled out its in-house Crew Resource Management (CRM) course earlier this year. It organises Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) demonstration sessions, and receives external requests for programs development and training on its accredited Safety and Emergency Procedures (SEP) and Smoke, Fire and Wet Drills programs.
In addition, Metrojet offers operational services as required, such as international flight dispatch and coordination, supplementary flight crew, maintenance control and airworthiness services.
Metrojet Limited. Established in 1995 and headquartered in Hong Kong, Metrojet is a business jet operator and maintenance service provider offering a complete range of business aviation services, including: comprehensive aircraft management, maintenance and consultancy services. Metrojet is part of the Kadoorie Group and a sister company of The Peninsula Hotels and pioneered business aviation services in Hong Kong.
Metrojet’s maintenance department is a fully certified Repair Station with approvals from the Hong Kong CAD, the United States FAA and is fully authorised to carry out maintenance on aircraft registered in China, Macau, Thailand, Philippines, Bermuda, Canada, Isle of Man, Cayman Islands, and San Marino. Metrojet is an Authorised Gulfstream Warranty Repair Facility, an Authorised Bombardier Aircraft Service Facility, and an Authorised Embraer Service Facility. Its highly trained engineers have Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce, GE and Honeywell APU type ratings, and its Avionics and Airframe engineers have ratings on Gulfstream, Bombardier, Beechcraft and Embraer aircraft.
Metrojet has expanded its presence in Asia in 2012 with the opening of Metrojet Engineering Clark – a maintenance facility located at Diosdado Macapagal International Airport within the Clark Freeport Zone in the Philippines. The company has also established in Singapore for aircraft management service, while the China Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) project is underway in Shanghai, China.
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