Five Thoughts Before Adding a Jet

Is your travel profile changing? Have your travel requirements become more difficult to accommodate recently? David Wyndham lists five important factors you might want to consider before you add a private jet to your flight operation.

David Wyndham  |  20th October 2022
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David Wyndham
David Wyndham

David Wyndham has extensive expertise in aircraft sales and acquisitions, asset management, cost and...

Private Cessna Citation Jet and Beechcraft 1900 turboprop

The assumption of this article is that you do not currently own a jet, nor has your company owned one in recent years, but that the flight operation has utilized a turboprop which has fulfilled the company's travel needs until recently.

As you look to add the extra speed and range a jet aircraft offers, what are some considerations you should make? Following, we’ll present five crucial areas to think through before making the decision to add a jet...

1) Justification

Jets are faster than their turboprop siblings, and sometimes considerably so. The longer the trip, the greater the advantage of additional speed will be. In the US, airspeeds are generally limited to not more than 250 knots below 10,000 feet, so a 350-400 knot jet will fly at the same speed as a high-speed turboprop below this altitude.

Therefore, climbs, descents, and approaches all take about the same time, whether you’re flying a jet or a turboprop. Moreover, flights in busy airspace with holding or intermediate level-off altitudes also add to the time spent at these lower altitudes.

Jet speeds begin to make a noticeable difference for trips that are longer than 200nm, and they offer significantly shorter times for trips of 300nm or more.

Essentially, the greater the speed difference, the sooner trip times begin favoring the jet. Assuming a similar cabin size, turboprops and jets may have a similar range capability. If the jet that is replacing your turboprop or adding to your current flight options has a much greater range, however, then trip times will be superior to the turboprop.

For example, if your mission need is to fly 1,600nm, and the turboprop has a maximum range of 1,400nm compared to a jet with 1,700nm, the avoidance of a fuel stop will save between 45 minutes and an hour each way.

If your ‘jet’ trips are likely to be only a small percentage of your total travel, however, it may be worth exploring ad-hoc charter or a Jet Card/Membership program, rather than to own a jet outright.

2) Extra Cost

Jets generally cost more to acquire and operate, per flight hour, than turboprops. Comparing aircraft with similar cabin sizes, the jet acquisition tends to exceed the turboprop.

Jets burn more fuel per hour than turboprops. A 25% or 50% increase in fuel burn is not unusual when you’re upgrading to a jet. Longer overhaul intervals are more common for the jet engine making that cost hit less frequent, but the hourly cost will rise.

When working through the operating cost numbers, remember the jet’s speed advantage, and establish the cost per trip or cost per mile. The higher hourly costs of the jet can be offset by its higher speeds.

For example, a 400nm trip in a turboprop may take two hours, while the jet does it in 80 minutes. Having done an analysis of a twin-engine turboprop versus a light jet, at about 200nm the operating costs (per trip or per mile) were even.

Provided the mission justifies the speed upgrade, and the acquisition budget is acceptable, the next three considerations may or may not be deal breakers...

3) Pilot Transition

Are your pilots ready for the transition to a jet? Are they experienced in flying jets? Managing the aircraft and maintaining situational awareness require faster thinking at 400 knots versus 250.

Most jets will require a type rating, and the quality simulator training providers do a great job with the turboprop to jet transition.

Your insurance company will have an opinion on this matter, too. Indeed, insurance requirements may mandate that you hire a temporary pilot with experience in the jet to fly on board as an additional safety measure, to assist in the transition.

4) Salary Review

Salaries will likely need to be increased, which is a two-fold hit:

• If you upgrade from a single-pilot turboprop to a larger jet that requires two pilots, you will need to hire additional crew members, likely doubling your staff.

• Pilot salaries increase as the type, size, and speed increases. A turboprop captain will have a lower salary than an equally skilled Light Jet captain. And a Large Jet captain commands a higher salary than a Light Jet captain.

Make sure that you are prepared for this.

5) Fixed Costs

Other fixed costs may increase with a jet. Recurrent training tends to cost more – particularly if the jet simulator is a Level D simulator (full motion, high fidelity). You should budget for this, resisting the urge to train less often to save a few dollars on the training. It is money well spent.

If the jet value is higher than your turboprop, insurance costs will also rise. The cost for hull insurance for an $8m jet will be at least 33% greater than for the $6m turboprop. And hangar rents may increase even if the aircraft size is similar, since the lessor needs to insure against loss of a higher value aircraft.

In Summary...

If you are trading a turboprop for a jet, look at trip costs or costs per mile. If your 350 annual hours in the turboprop is replaced by a jet flying 250 annual hours, what is the annual budget to accomplish this mission?

Finally, compare the costs with the advantages of speed and range that come with the jet. Ultimately, the mission flexibility may be well worth any increase in budget.

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David Wyndham

David Wyndham

Editor, Ownership & Operating Costs

David Wyndham has extensive expertise in aircraft sales and acquisitions, asset management, cost and budget analysis and finance fundamentals. With several decades supporting aircraft owners and operators in making fully-informed decisions about their aircraft needs, his expertise spans from the flight department to the executive boardroom.

David is the founder of David Wyndham + Associates, and previously he was a Co-owner and President of Conklin & de Decker where he consulted with large corporations, individuals, and government agencies on their aircraft needs.



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