Aircraft Charter 101 (Part 5)
An Overnight Stay or Same-Day Return?
Charter clients may instinctively go for same-day return trips rather than book a next-day return (NDR)- yet in some instances the best decision is for NDR- contends Dave Higdon.
A game show used to ask its audience whether a particular contender should “stay or go?” When flying private aircraft on business a similar question frequently arises: Should we book NDR or same-day return?
Circumstances may occasionally dictate an NDR. A host of variables apply when the question arises - not all controlled by the charter provider. Understanding the variables and appreciating their differences offers foresight for a well-informed decision.
THINK SMARTER- NOT CHEAPER
Admit it: You expected charter costs to be the first line of consideration when weighing an overnight stay versus a same-day return trip. In flying- however- smart almost always beats cheap.
In reality- what you expected to be first on the list is last in priority – at least it is where the big picture is concerned. Safety is always first; legality is next. The crew- for example- can’t legally accept a flight if a client’s change of plans would put that crew outside work and rest requirements that are mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration.
In other words- weather can make you late and the flight can continue- usually; but you can’t decide to add a leg that pushes the crew over its daily- weekly- monthly or yearly limits. Be aware that a delay may add more than time to your experience – it may add expenses such as time for the crew to get the required rest breaks- plus the airplane time in some cases—along with your own meals and hostelry requirements.
Conversely- when weather interrupts your plans- ask the question: “Would staying overnight at the current location cost less than heading for an alternate further from the desired destination?”
CONSIDER THE NUMBERS
‘Stay’ or ‘Go’ decisions for the flight crew essentially come down to numbers: numbers of hours in a duty day as well as flight-time and distance numbers that help identify the weather that is likely to be encountered. In both instances legal limits apply to the crew. A day is a day – unless you’re a for-hire flight crew for whom a day is what the FARs – Federal Aviation Regulations – say it is. Charter crews must operate within those so-called flight-time/duty-time regulations or run the parallel risk of operating fatigued and within reach of a regulatory violation.
Weather stands as another element with a numbers component. Charter crews generally operate on what’s called an instrument flight plan – a capability option that allows flight in most inclement weather and is required for the altitudes flown by jets and turboprops.
When conditions of cloud ceiling and visibility fall below the defined levels – or are forecast to do so – at the time a flight would arrive at an airport- the crew cannot legally file to fly there. At slightly better levels a flight plan to the desired destination can be filed but the crew must state an alternate airport where conditions are forecast to be better.
Furthermore- flight crews may judge weather en route as too foul to transverse- even when conditions at the destination are forecast to exceed minima. Some days- and in some ways weather simply serves as an impenetrable barrier. Weather can come into unwelcome play unexpectedly- in opposition to more favorable forecasts. Ultimately- an overnight stay may resolve both crew time and weather issues.
Not resolvable by staying at a location- however- are issues with equipment and services. The aircraft- for example- or correct facilities (landing aid or availability of fuel- for example) continue to be considerations.
The essence of the above discussion is that if some of your day trips regularly become challenging to complete in a day- it is essential to consider alternatives. Maybe you could tie that challenging day in with follow-on stops on a second day- as opposed to returning to the home base and making a second- separate trip from home base on another day.
You may find that trying to squeeze too much into a single day of flying runs the charter crew foul of those FAA regulations cited above. Splitting the trip could become a necessity – not without costs- but possibly more cost-effective when spread across several days.
Combining several one-day trips into a single- multiple- destination mission could be beneficial in the long-run. Consider routings that allow you to fly a continuous circuit – minus backtracking or leg reversals – on an arc from the point of origin through the stops and back again to the start.
To get the most from your charter trips- you should be prepared to apply some creative thinking in your planning- and negotiate a package with your charter provider. After all- a safe- productive outcome is everyone’s goal.
Do you have any questions or opinions on the above topic? Get them answered/published in World Aircraft Sales Magazine. Email feedback to: [email protected]