“I was 17 years old when I flew my first aircraft,” says Anibal Martinez owner of Mach Helicopters, based in Spain. “I have been surrounded by aviation pretty much all my life. My father was a pilot and I grew up in Argentina studying to become an aeronautical technician specialising in helicopters,” he continues.
Having finished his studies in Argentina, Martinez relocated to Spain in 1990, where he completed his training as a commercial pilot. “I started out flying private jets, but quickly realised I preferred flying helicopters,” he reveals.
“I typically fly a twin engine Agusta 109 helicopter. While it is similar to a fixed-wing aircraft in terms of instrumentation, the advantage of a helicopter is that it has the versatility to land pretty much anywhere. You don’t need a runway. So, in that sense there’s much more freedom.”
Having spent more than 30 years working in aviation, and with 5,000 hours flying experience, Martinez considers himself fortunate to still love getting up and going to work each day. “In my early days as a helicopter pilot I spent a lot of time working in search and rescue, firefighting and the emergency services. It could be challenging, but I loved it. The downside was that it involved shift work, which was hard with a young family.” Martinez has two children who are now 18 and 22. When they were younger he typically worked 22 days on and 8 days off.
“I have been really lucky though that my working life has seen me travel extensively throughout South America and Europe. Experiencing different cultures and seeing different parts of the world has definitely been a highlight,” he continues.
Martinez started Mach Helicopters in 2016 and it currently has bases in Madrid, Barcelona, Asturias, Cadiz and Ibiza. “When I started out with the business, there was no other company offering helicopter charters in the private sector in Spain. So, I seized the opportunity to do just that.” In addition to private transfers, the company offers a range of services. These include panoramic tours, winery and gastronomical experiences, corporate events and transfers to sport events such as Formula 1 fixtures across Spain and South of Europe.
The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have of course had a significant impact on Martinez’s business.
“We had three months where we weren’t able to fly at all,” he says. “However, we used that time constructively. We purchased an additional twin-engine helicopter. Our fleet is now comprised of three Agusta 109 helicopters, all of which feature leather interiors, air conditioning and Bose headsets. We have also redesigned our website and introduced new itineraries and services such as transfers to private estates and exclusive lodges. These normally span through the winter months when we are typically quieter.”
Martinez adds that he has also adopted various measures in line with official Covid guidelines, such as the wearing of face masks, adhering to social distancing where possible and single-use microphone and headset covers. He has also had to purchase new equipment to do temperature checks on passengers, and additional hand sanitising and disinfection programmes are also in place with an ozone generator machine.
Instilling passenger confidence has been vital in restarting operations, as has being able to ensure punctual and reliable helicopter transfers. As a Sterling card member Martinez underlines that, “having access to safe, reliable fuel services is integral to this process and key to avoiding any unnecessary delays – something that’s of paramount importance to our customers.” What’s more he adds that it also means he can “rely on Air bp for their refuelling services and expertise almost anywhere he flies in Europe.”
While the road to recovery is still filled with twists and turns Martinez has seen an uptake in business over the last month and remains optimistic about the future. He also remains resolute in his love of flying. “It’s all I’ve ever known and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I think I would have had to be born into a different family to have pursued a career that didn't’ involve flying.”
And with that he’s off. One of his helicopters needs to be flown to Madrid for its monthly overhaul, with Martinez at the controls.
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