In our April/May issue, we travel to Antarctica with Enterprise Aviation Group, go behind the scenes with Air Transat, and deliver an update on the CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopter!
The new owners of Skyplan Services Inc. (Skyplan) have one simple, if ambitious goal: they intend to be number one.
With over 30 years’ experience in the aviation industry, a strong mix of industry-leading programs and services, and office walls replete with plaques commemorating assistance in and contributions to world events from the first Gulf War to the recent Fort McMurray evacuation, new owners Muhammad Sami and Craig Mariacci are proud of Skyplan’s past, and ready to set a new course for its future.
Located in Calgary, Alberta, Skyplan is a major provider of flight operations support services to the aviation industry, worldwide. The company provides computer generated flight planning, global weather data, domestic and international notices to airmen (NOTAMs), overflight and landing clearances, aviation fuel, flight watch, flight following and a number of other flight operations support services.
In March 2016, Mariacci, a 29-year veteran of Skyplan, and Sami, who has run the company’s Dubai satellite office for 10 years, took over the helm from retiring owner Adrian Bone. They are determined not only to carry on Skyplan’s tradition of excellence, but to add fresh energy, create a new vision, and encourage new ideas.
“We have our own proprietary software, we take care of those with private jets, and we cover all aspects of the industry, including helicopters–Skyplan’s cart’s a little more varied than most,” said Mariacci. In fact, he said some of Skyplan’s competitors use its programs in their own operations.
“We are proud of our 30-year history. Despite an economy that’s been up and down, the fact is, Skyplan is still here, surviving and doing well.
“Being Canadian offers us more leeway into many places, such as Cuba, for instance, than U.S. companies,” said Mariacci. “But having said that, it’s important to note we don’t just handle Canadian companies–we are worldwide.”
Among other strengths, Mariacci attributed Skyplan’s vitality to the ability of management and staff to adapt to the market and the economy. With just over 40 employees, Mariacci noted that Skyplan is still “a small enough company that we can change the way we operate–for instance, when the economy is down, we can be flexible in the types of services offered, or in pricing.”
Skyplan remains technically strong and innovative, continuously updating and developing its flight plan system, while its trip planning department stays up to date on changes in all countries across the world.
Skyplan’s user-friendly flight planning system was developed by dispatchers for dispatchers, said Mariacci.
“It’s simple and easy-to-use, but will do everything asked of it,” he noted. “We can have an airline up and running within days of contract signing.”
Customer service and
support is top priority
Despite Skyplan’s technical expertise, however, Mariacci stressed that what makes the new owners confident in achieving their goal to be number one is the company’s commitment to customer service and support.
“Everybody has a widget that does stuff– the differentiation is not the button you push but the people producing and servicing it,” said Mariacci. He noted that he and Sami have made a concentrated effort not only to maintain the same strong team at Skyplan, but have been able to entice back some best-in-industry employees, making for an even stronger team.
“In the world of flight planning and dispatch, the goal is that customer service and customer support have to be best in industry,” said Mariacci. “We are a 24/7 operation–we never close the doors. It’s not rare for us to hand out our cell numbers so our customers can reach us at all times. We are seeking out and employing the best industry minds and expertise, and we’re still expanding.
“We don’t want to be pegged as simply a tech company rather than a service company–we want and have the greatest technology behind the scenes, but service is what will make us number one.”
Mariacci and Sami are particularly proud of the multinational and multilingual Skyplan staff, noting that they currently can service their customers in eight different languages.
One example of Skyplan’s ability to step up and provide excellent service was during the recent devastating fires in Fort McMurray, Alberta.
“Everyone heard about the big players, but Skyplan has four regional customers who we do dispatch for that were also removing people affected by the evacuation,” said Mariacci. The four–Regional 1, Air North, Sunwest and Enerjet–did 230 flights out, he said.
In recognition of the new ownership and renewed energy, Skyplan plans on having an increased presence at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition this year. Mariacci said the ownership will be present.
“We’ll be there on the floor working,” he said. “Show attendees will not be able to miss seeing the Skyplan exhibit this year!”