The new case for corporate aircraft
A number of high-level security people we know are no longer willing to travel on commercial airlines. Their feeling is that current security procedures have made commercial transport too inconvenient, too time consuming, too stressful, and too dangerous, and so they either go by other means of transport or don’t travel.
It is not our desire in this article to discuss the implications of airport security on travel safety. There is, however, no doubt that air travel has become significantly more onerous and time consuming. We know someone who recently took a trip that should have taken four hours portal to portal, but, with early arrival and airport evacuations, took eleven hours. Because of this, and because of cutbacks in airline service, many companies and even individuals are now reconsidering general aviation as a reasonable means of transport. It is now, for many, seeming less elitist and more practical.
How practical? We spoke recently with one executive who, in fact, flies his own small plane. He says that he can leave Louisiana in the morning and be in New York in the afternoon, earlier than if he flew commercially. Security? He gets into the plane, checks to make sure he has a gun, and taxies out!
If this speed difference is true in a teeny plane traveling from Louisiana to New York, imagine if he were going shorter distances. Or imagine the savings in time with a big plane. And imagine if you have several people going on the trip. And imagine that you want to do some fruitful work with these people on the trip. Keep in mind that with your own craft you have the option of taking off when you want, and flying directly where you want to go, which is often to a general aircraft aerodrome that is closer to the city center than the hub airport.
The question then becomes one of when you should be moving from flying commercially to flying your own craft. There are several factors. One is the distance you are flying. Another is the number of people being transported. A third is the value of the time of the people flying, including changes of plane, waits between flights, and delays. A fourth is the number of hours you are flying. A fifth is the annoyance over hassle and time collectively lost in travel.
Once a decision has been made that general aviation is to be considered, the second decision needs to be what kind of involvement you have, which is dependent on your travel needs and finances.
If you are a small company that has one or two people who do a lot of regional travel, a small piston engine plane may be the most appropriate choice. These planes, which cost relatively little money (a purchase price of anywhere between a quarter of a million dollars to a million dollars) to buy and to maintain, provide tremendous utility to small businesses. Indeed, in circumstances in which most travel is for one or two people within five or six hundred miles, these small planes can be a perfect choice. As an example, some time ago a friend of ours desperately needed to go in a day from New York City to Elmira to Syracuse and back. This simply could not be done by car or by commercial airliner. Since the weather was nice and we had no pressing business, we flew him and his business associate to Elmira, picking up a nice vase while they had their meeting, then flew them to Syracuse, and, finally, got them back home in time for dinner. Ignoring for the moment the fact that our time didn’t cost them anything other than lunch and a future dinner, the entire trip cost them less than what it would have cost them to stay overnight in a hotel at either of their destinations. If they did this kind of trip regularly, rather than just this once, owning a plane would make sense.
If you are flying more people, and are looking at distances of a thousand miles, larger multi-engine piston planes may also make sense, but the cost for these is much higher, and a discussion of the cost benefits are beyond the scope of this article. If you are leaping into this range, a significant number of vendors will be delighted to help you figure out what is most appropriate for you.
If because of distances traveled you are just moving into the world of jet aircraft and need something bigger than a piston engine plane, you are likely to be flying fewer than 50 hours a year to start, and we would recommend you consider the Marquis Private Jet Card (http://www.marquisjet.com/ 1-866- 538-1400. See our review in the January 2002 issue of ÆGIS). This will give you 25 hours of flight time for somewhere between $109,000 and $299,000, depending on the size of the aircraft, and allow you to evaluate the utility of using larger general aviation without a tremendous capital investment.
While not applicable to those just looking into general aviation, we can tell you that once you end up flying more than 50 hours a year you will then need to consider fractional ownership, which, for a one-eighth ownership will set you back about four million dollars for the original investment, plus substantial operating costs. And when you are flying more than 400 hours a year you will probably end up with your own aircraft. Again, this is beyond the scope of this article, which is intended merely to make smaller businesses aware of the possible utility of general aviation.
Whatever your level of business travel, however, general aviation is an option that, more now than ever, needs to be carefully evaluated. It can provide safe, cost-efficient, secure travel in a turbulent time.