Shortstop shows it’s in for the long haul

If you’ve visited Essendon Fields Airport before you’ve likely noted it’s most famous aircraft – the classic DC-3 affectionately known as Melbourne’s Gooney Bird – which has been taking passengers on chartered trips for more than three decades.

Behind the success of the Gooney Bird has been Shortstop Jet Charter, operated by father and son team Mike Falls Senior and Mike Falls Junior.

Next year Shortstop will celebrate forty-five years of flight operations at Essendon Fields, forty of these from its historical Hangar 5 base, and the great news is that this aviation charter company is busier than ever.

Pictured: Mike Snr and Mike Jnr in front of the iconic DC-3 Melbourne’s Gooney Bird, approximately 35 years ago.

Shortstop currently operate two corporate aircraft, a Falcon 900C and a Citation Jet CJ1, as well as its DC-3, and will also have its L-39 Albatros adventure Jet Fighter back in the air later this year after maintenance. Their home base, Hangar 5, was constructed back in 1936 as the Melbourne depot for the Tasmanian Air Services operated by Holyman Airways, before the company became part of ANA later that year. Over the years both the facility and Shortstop Jet Charter have seen many aircraft and passionate aviators pass through.

Mike Falls Senior notes that following the difficulties caused by a reduction in charter jet movements during the pandemic, they’ve seen a significant and steady increase in business over the past two years.

“Current work involves the continuation of our main role, which is business and personal air charter, by operating three managed jets. Business flights in particular have been very active, together with satisfying the travel requirements of overseas visitors in Australia for high-level tourism or show business events,’’ he said.

“Our favourite aeroplane is the classic DC-3, which has been with us for thirty-five years. It continues to ply its trade taking happy people to nearby locations for day trips to places such as the iconic King Island. We’re also shortly introducing a new scenic flight around the CBD in the Gooney which will be priced at under $300 per passenger.’’

Pictured: Left – The iconic DC-3 Melbourne’s Gooney Bird, Right – Mike Snr, Mike Jr and Olivia, Mike Jr’s daughter who is Shortstop’s qualified Flight Attendant, aboard the Falcon 900C.

Shortstop employs eleven full-time staff members based out of its Hangar 5 location, with five more in part-time roles. Passionate about providing a pathway for young people to enter the industry, the team also ensure they always have opportunities for ongoing trainee or recently graduated pilots to get involved.

“These young people experience their first real contact with day-to-day aircraft operations with us, which stands them in good stead as their career unfolds. Their training with us is as a requisite for involvement in flight preparation and ground operations is rigorous and demanding, with an emphasis on safe and compliant procedures and outcomes,’’ said Mike Falls Senior.

Shortstop invests in the business and its people, and is consistently training to ensure it operates at the highest standards.

“The ongoing introduction of new regulations and mandates from the aviation regulator is the main driver of our need for constant review, education, and training. Our flight, ground crew and operational training is regular and demanding,’’ said Mike Falls Senior.

Essendon Fields GM Aviation Matt Marais congratulated Shortstop on its ongoing contribution to the airport and wider industry, especially in its role supporting the next generation of aviation enthusiasts into the industry.

“Traditionally when people think of a career in aviation the major airlines come to mind, when in reality there are many possible pathways from emergency services right through to business jet aviation. It’s fantastic to see a business charter operator like Shortstop Jet Charter supporting passionate aviators early in their careers through their business operations,” said Mr Marais.