Business Aircraft & Helicopter Buyers Guide PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 26 July 2008 19:34

A private aircraft should be considered only if a client would utilize the aircraft approximately 150 hours a year. If 150 hours a year is not going to be achieved, other forms of transportation should be considered.

2. What criteria (size, price, brand, etc.) should be considered when purchasing a plane?

The first thing we help a first time buyer do is to establish a mission profile by looking at their travel requirements. We take into account the distances to be flown, how many passengers will typically be on board, the frequency of the most common trips, if non-stop trips are needed or desired, and, based on the profile and the cities traveled, how often the aircraft will need to stop for fuel. A complete analysis, including cabin preference and budget requirements, is critical when deciding which category of aircraft to buy. Remember, all aircraft provide some compromise to performance. Some aircraft choices will be limited due to number of passengers, some will have range issues, while others will not have stand up cabins or fully enclosed lavatories. As you begin establishing your mission profile, we can assist you.

3. What are some advantages for a small-to-medium business to own a plane?

Saves Time -- Business aircraft not only reduce flight time by providing point-to-point service, they decrease the block or total travel time because they are able to utilize smaller airports closer to final destinations. Also, the office environment of a business aircraft allows travel time to become productive time.

Flexibility -- People who travel by business aircraft do not have to alter their schedules to conform to those of commercial carriers. Consequently, they have the freedom to change course en route and leave and arrive according to their own schedules.

Reliability -- Business aircraft are engineered and built to the highest standards, and companies that maintain their own aircraft have complete control of the readiness of their fleet.

Safety -- In recent years, businesses aircraft have compiled an outstanding safety record that is comparable to or better than that of the airlines.

Improved Marketing Efficiency -- Business aircraft not only extend the reach of a sales force, but they can quickly and easily bring customers to the point of sale.

Facilities Control -- Business aircraft help management extend its control by facilitating personal visits to remote company sites.

Personnel and Industrial Development -- The mobility that business aircraft provide company employees can accelerate training, orientation, and teamwork.

Privacy and Comfort -- Conversations on business aircraft are confidential, and cabins can be configured to accommodate virtually any special needs of the passengers.

Efficiency -- Business aviation enables a company to maximize its two most important assets: people and time.

Security -- A company that uses business aviation controls all aspects of its travel including the visibility of its employees on sensitive missions.

4. Are there disadvantages to aircraft ownership?

Incorrect expectations and budgetary constraints are just a few of the reasons that ownership may not be the correct solution for you -- at least for now. Until recently the only answer short of full ownership or chartering was to travel using the commercial airlines. Now, though, there are more options. Typically if you expect to be flying 150 hours a year or less, you should explore the alternatives to full ownership.

Chartering is a great way to experience several types of aircraft prior to making a final choice to purchase. Although the hourly cost may seem high, the flexibility and lack of long term commitment makes chartering attractive to many. Finding a reputable charter broker can make all the difference so please use the Charter section of AeroController.com sponsored by National Air Charters.

Setting up a partnership for aircraft ownership can sometimes be more difficult than choosing a spouse. However, having the right partner(s) can be bliss. If the partners' missions are compatible and their scheduling does not conflict, this 'sharing' of an aircraft can work out very well. I believe a good partnership agreement is the key to the success in this travel solution. Please consult a aviation lawyer that can be found in the Directory Section of AeroController.com

5. Where should an owner look (classifieds, dealer, etc.) when considering purchasing a plane?

Whether it is your first aircraft purchase or your third, the use of a professional aircraft broker in this process is no different than going to a responsible real estate broker for a land transaction. The professional aircraft broker can be found in the Directory of AeroController.com. Your broker can help you research the market by category, comparable information; contracting and overseeing the pre-purchase inspection are all part of the complex job of matching buyer and seller. Fees vary and should be discussed with the broker or broker organization you choose to use. Brokers should be involved in the development of the mission profile in addition to helping with piloting and management choices.

6. Is the prestige of owning a private plane a plus when selling to a large client?

Often a client requires the flexibility of aircraft ownership when meeting the business needs in today's marketplace. Often the flexibility is essential to the ownership. Prestige is a matter of individual circumstance and each situation is unique. As I mentioned earlier, flying over 150 hours per year is a good point to own your own aircraft or for a group to make a purchase. This may be for prestige, for business or a combination of both. One thing is for sure, if an aircraft can further your opportunities, many say, they pay for themselves.

7. Is it better to be a pilot and fly your own plane, or is it better to hire a pilot? Why?

Once you have decided to purchase an aircraft, the next decision is whether to operate it your self or have it professionally managed. If you set up your own operation, typically you will locate and hire a "Chief Pilot" who becomes your aviation manager. This individual, working with others in your organization, establishes the flight operation. It is important to choose an individual with significant experience because operating a private flight department is a much more complex task than most people realize; flying the aircraft is the "easy part". You should demand that operating standards be set, governing such things as crew flight and duty time limits, minimum weather operating standards, training and experience criteria for all personnel, drug and alcohol use guidelines, minimum equipment lists for operation of the aircraft, and similar standards.

A method to maintain the aircraft must be established which can range from purchasing maintenance services on an ad-hock basis to hiring a full maintenance staff. In addition, business interface must be developed to field, review, approve and pay all aircraft related bills. Ownership structure and flight department operating methods can have major tax implications, so it is important to secure sound advice from professionals prior to putting the aircraft into service.

Aircraft management companies provide full turn-key flight department operations. By securing the services of such an organization, you gain an "instant flight department" incorporating all the disciplines required to operate your aircraft. Management companies charge various fees for their services, but, at least in the case of larger, well established organizations, they can provide significant operating efficiencies and discounts for goods and services that more than offset the fees. Crewing methods vary, but many management companies will provide permanently assigned crews to each owner's aircraft. This provides the continuity many owners want in order to feel comfortable. The management company is responsible to handle all the details of operation of our aircraft, and a good one will shield you from all the hassle that can be associated with owning and operating an aircraft, including providing the necessary tax and ownership structure advice you need. As with all services, check around and be sure to select a management company that is well established and has a good reputation. Professional management outsourcing is gaining popularity as corporations strain under the pressures of constant requirements to increase productivity while aircraft and their operation simultaneously become more complex.

8. Can expenses be cut down by leasing out the plane when it's not being used?

Many aircraft owners choose to charter their aircraft out to third parties to generate revenues to offset their own operating expenses. This is a very personal decision, and is influenced by how many flight hours or flight days you plan to use your aircraft. The practice is becoming widely accepted among corporations where the business aircraft is viewed as just another asset that must generate a return on investment to justify its existence. Charter is an excellent vehicle to utilize excess aircraft capacity, especially with new owners whose travel and usage patterns are still developing.

A frequent concern of owners is that their aircraft will be abused by charterers or that it will wear out sooner than if they use it only for their own transportation. In fact, the people who charter corporate aircraft are responsible corporate and private citizens and the incidents of abuse are extremely rare. In the infrequent instance where damage does occur, most charter contracts require that the charterer pay for such damage. Doing business with a well established charter operator with a solid reputation will minimize any exposure to aircraft damage.

If you do decide to charter, you must decide whether you are gong to obtain your own FAR 135 certification or "piggyback" on one held by another organization. The facts indicate it is far more cost effective and significantly more efficient administratively to piggyback with an established charter operator.

An established operator will have all the necessary infrastructure in place to support charter operations and, presuming your aircraft is properly equipped, get it into productive use quickly, typically 30 to 60 days. Contrast this with starting from scratch to obtain your own FAR 135 certification. The process of certification can take as long as a year. For jet aircraft, "proving runs" are required where the operator must fly FAA representatives on board the aircraft for 25 flight hours and demonstrate their ability to comply with the regulations. Once certificated, the owner needs to develop a marketing program, billing and collection procedures, and all the other business infrastructure components that go into running a commercial entity.

Financial arrangements vary with charter operators, but chartering your aircraft out may generate some sizable contributions to your costs of ownership and operation.

Last Updated on Saturday, 30 August 2008 01:39