October 16, 2013

A Tasmanian flyaway success

Aviation businesses are notoriously expensive and, when you're flying a seaplane, there's an extra layer of complexity. Tim Robertson discusses how he and fellow aviator Christiaan Durrant overcame the challenges to make Tasmanian Air Adventures an award-winning success.

Tasmanian Air Adventures’ co-founder, Tim Robertson, discusses the journey from business idea to award-winning success.

When Christiaan Durrant and Tim Robertson were walking the overland track through Tasmania’s wilderness they wished more people could enjoy its pristine beauty.

Then, as aviators, they hit on a way to make that possible. “We realised that a seaplane could give both locals and visitors unique views of the island, and make it easy to reach even the most remote locations,” says Robertson.

In 2011, they drew up a business plan which won the RMIT Business Plan of the Year. It also marked the beginning of the long, hard road that lay between them and their goal of getting Tasmanian Air Adventures (TAA) off the ground.

“It would be hard to find a business that’s more complicated to set up,” says Robertson. “On top of the challenges that every start-up has to face, we had to gain approvals from 11 regulatory bodies ranging from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Australian Maritime and Safety Agency to local governments.”

In December 2011, they were finally ready to start flying their eight seat De Havilland DHC-2 Beaver seaplane, the most widely-used commercial seaplane in the world. TAA quickly became one of Trip Advisor’s top five attractions in Hobart and, this year, won the Telstra Tasmanian Business Start-Up Award.

Partnerships for growth

“We have our own products, which are scenic flights and premium flights out to remote areas of the island, and we also see ourselves as a tourism facilitator,” says Robertson. “We’ve established partnerships with a number of local operators and some larger tourism companies which enable us to deliver packages including sailing, jet boat adventures and trout fishing. We also have partnerships with accommodation providers and fly tourists to some of the most secluded hotels on the island.”

High capital requirements make it difficult to get started in aviation and the uniquely high ongoing fixed costs include insurance and leases. “In this kind of business it’s always hard to make the numbers work,” says Robertson. “We decided at the start that forming partnerships would be a good way to build our business and the strategy is working well. Passenger numbers are currently increasing by 150 to 170 percent on a monthly basis year over year, and our revenue is constantly improving.”

Plans for the future include a permanent office in Hobart, a second aeroplane, another operating base in Tasmania and, possibly, a business in New South Wales. They’re also initiating partnerships with more hotel groups and diversifying into other areas of the tourism industry.

“As a technical company, we’re constantly looking at different ways to streamline and improve the operation and we’re also committed to building on our environmental credentials,” says Robertson. “One plan is to have a ‘green’ engine put into one of our aircraft so that, in a couple of years’ time, we’ll have one of the first aeroplanes in the country operating on 100 percent biofuels.”

Watch Tim accept the Telstra Business 2013 Tasmanian Start-Up award to hear more about Tasmanian Air Adventures’ success.

Find out more about Tasmanian Air Adventures

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