At the court of the Prince of Air

A Prince Aviation story, by Capt. Zoran Modli

PRINCE AVIATION is an air taxi company that I have become an inseparable part of since 1992. The company was founded two years earlier to my arrival thanks to the aeronautical enthusiasm and charming entrepreneurship of two of my friends and colleagues, Slobodan Stričević and Đorđe Jovanović. Both of them were owners of dark-blue professional aircraft pilot licenses.

Parallel to my career as a pilot on JAT’s B727, I started the pioneering work at the – oh, so irresistible – PRINCE. The situation at the time was this: we flew on a one engine aircraft Piper Cherokee Six. It was a cute airplane with 6 seats whose flight range was quite respectable: it could reach even Vienna and Thessaloniki!

A much younger Cessna 172 joined the team. Bought in the United States, it was delivered over the Atlantic by a barefaced American pilot, for a fee of a couple of thousand dollars! His story is surely more exciting than anything our Cessna saw in the later years. I never met the young man but I will say that during that Lindberghesque flight the whole flight deck was packed with a gigantic fuel tank, numerous water bottles and a couple of cookie boxes. Many young pilots from across the ocean obtain their flight hours with such steadfast dedication; it’s a way for pilots to start their careers with larger companies.

Believe it or not, the first abode of PRINCE was the offices of Studio B (a well-known radio and television station in Belgrade, Serbia). I brought my flying friends over there to coordinate PRINCE in 1992 while, in parallel, I hosted two radio shows on Studio B: “Radio Computer Show” with Marko Janković, and “Studio B Stock Exchange“ with Dejan Milenković.

Both my work on radio and PRINCE AVIATION had serious teen-supporters. Aleksandar Šušnjar just turned 18 and fantasized about flying but didn’t fly. He already had extraordinary computer programming experience, awards from various international mathematics competitions, ideas about 3D television as well as an unofficial patent to broadcast radio jingles from computers called “Soft Sound”. Today he lives and successfully creates in Canada. Two 16 year old boys Vladimir Polić and Josip Modli had identical affinities towards graphic and computer design. Together, they designed PRINCE’s first logo.

Today, Vladimir is the director of “The House of Print” and Josip is an art director in the world of advertising, with a professional pilot licence in his pocket. And of course, Josip later designed the complete visual identity of PRINCE AVIATION.

On New Year’s Eve in 1993 the first “real” PRINCE AIR aircraft landed. This was a serious two-engine business plane Cessna 421 Golden Eagle. It also flew across the ocean on its way to Belgrade.

The Golden Eagle’s new home was the hangar of the  JAT’s General Aviation Service, where it was accompanied by Cessna 172 (in the meantime, the good old Piper Cherokee slowly faded away and completely stopped flying). The Cessna 421, which seemed like a Jumbo Jet compared to the one-engine birds surrounding it, was carefully inspected by our engineers and mechanics before they signed their names for the first time in the aircraft’s Log Book.

Oh my, the team grew bigger! This photo shows the entire team at the time – the pilots, the engineers, the mechanics and yes, the first (transient) flight attendant of PRINCE AVIATION and the local business aviation.

Spacious business aircraft with 6 seats is not only interesting to the air taxi clientele. As soon as the need arose, the plane was transformed into a flying ambulance.

With the Cessna 421, whose nickname was “Old Betsy”, we circled the entire Mediterranean and Central Europe. She stopped being PRINCE AIR’s star plane during the mid ninety’s, when the first jet engine aircraft joined the fleet – Cessna 550 Citation II. The Cessna jet got the nickname “Vukica”.

Now we had a chance to find out first-hand how it feels to fly a business jet. The passengers were more relaxed when there were no propellers in sight and we didn’t have to explain that the airplane is quick and safe – they could see it for themselves!

The control panel of the Citation II was, till the beginning of the millennium, analogue. Analogue but reliable. No doubt about it. In addition, it had a good GPS receptor (that became a basic necessity) and excellent meteorological colour radar, able to scan anything in the sky that had a slightest drop of water!

The Cessna Citation II is not too expensive of an aircraft and for the money it’s worth it since it offers quite a lot: speed of 0.65 mach, ceiling of about 42.000 feet and flight range of a couple of thousand kilometres, while 7 passengers can be decently comfortable inside the plane. As some might say, excellent price to quality ratio!

Just like any other serious company, PRINCE AVIATION had its own Flight School from day one. The flight school was instantly certified to train private, commercial and professional pilots, aircraft mechanics, flight attendants and other flight crew. Since 1992, Prince Aviation’s flight training organization trained more than 500 pilots.

You can also see the first class of flight attendants that graduated in 1998: Biljana, Ivana, Tamara, Jelena, Ana, Anna-Maria, Suzana and Tanja. Well, Ivana, Tamara and Jelena later flew for “Tiger Air”, Suzana for “Prince Air”, and Ana for “Emirates Airlines” in Dubai. I used this inspirational training as an excellent alibi to write the book “Profession Flight Attendant”.

As the third millennium started, PRINCE AVIATION said good-bye to “Old Betsy” and 24 Francuska Street. Commercial traffic consisted only of jets and the main office moved across the street to 35 Francuska Street.

The end of 2005 saw two single-engine training aircraft, Cessna 172’s, to serve for the training of private and professional pilots, together with twin-engine Piper Seneca, ideal for IFR training and as an occasional commuter traffic plane, as well as three jets that fly daily in commercial traffic: one Cessna Citation I (for shorter flights) and two more superior Cessna Citation Bravo’s, for longer flight ranges.

In the spring of 2007, Prince Aviation moved its offices into a more suitable space for the ever-growing company, at 40-42 Goce Delčeva Street in New Belgrade. Most visitors are amazed by the interior! Perhaps you will be too…

The move to the new premises was only preparation for what was about to come… at the beginning of the 2008, Prince Aviation got its first mid-size business jet – the Cessna 560XL Citation XLS! Delivered directly from the Cessna’s production line in Wichita, our YU-SPA was the first brand new aircraft registered in Serbia after almost two decades.

And it was only the first of the three XLS’ that has been delivered in 2008. The new jets brought the new level of services and proved to be extremely popular among Prince Aviation’s clients and are now, with a reason, wearing the title of the “Pride of the fleet”.

It was not only company’s mainline fleet that was increased during 2008. Prince Aviation’s flight training organization got a brand new Cessna 172R Skyhawk – a venerable trainer, but this time with a state of the art Garmin 1000 avionics suite, that will enable to train future pilots in the environment as close as possible to their future work place flight decks of the modern airliners.

With the best year in its history behind, Prince Aviation is ready for new challenges and even greater achievements in the time to come, and all that in order to have a great celebration of the company’s 20thAnniversary.

To be continued…