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Business Aviation & The Boardroom - Charter for Your Short-Term Needs

If you have your own business aircraft- at some point it will be unavailable for flight- either due to scheduled maintenance or perhaps because it is already flying a trip. Consider charter an excellent relief valve- says David Wyndham.

David Wyndham   |   1st June 2011
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David Wyndham David Wyndham

As an Instructor Pilot in the U.S. Air Force- Dave's responsibilities included aircrew...
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Charter for Your Short-Term Airlift Requirements
If you have your own business aircraft- at some point it will be unavailable for flight- either due to scheduled maintenance or perhaps because it is already flying a trip. Consider charter an excellent 'relief valve-' says David Wyndham.

Charter is ideal for those times that you need extra flying for a brief period. Below are some guidelines for ways in which Charter can be excellent for supplemental lift:

• When the need arises for a second aircraft on limited occasions each year;
• When your current aircraft is unable to meet the requirements for an upcoming trip (lacks range- lacks seating capacity for example);
• When your excess hourly needs are unpredictable (20 hours this year- but maybe 10 the next year).

Business aircraft offer unparalleled flexibility. In order to maintain the aircraft’s reliability and safety- they do need regular maintenance. For many models- there comes a time when they need a ‘heavy maintenance visit’ requiring significant resources and downtime. There is- of course- no need to stop your flying while your aircraft is down as a chartered aircraft can step in to fill the short-term need.

Charter is also a good alternative if you need a handful of hours for a mission your current aircraft can't achieve efficiently. It is more cost-effective to get an aircraft that handles the majority (70-90%) of your air travel needs and charter for the remaining 10-30% of the time.

Depending on your needs- that may mean owning a light jet as your primary aircraft and chartering a large-cabin jet for the infrequent long-range trip or it may be the reverse: Your global business jet isn't the best aircraft to fly three people into that 3-500-footlong runway! Charter as an option makes available many different types of aircraft so you can tailor the aircraft to the mission.

Charter also allows you to add a ‘second aircraft’ to be in use simultaneously with your own aircraft. It may be for a board meeting- a major sales meeting- or to bring in several suppliers to your main offices.

The main benefit to using charter is that you only pay for the aircraft when it is in use. There are no contracts or long-term commitments - and consequently- this option works best when you are unsure as to how many hours are needed on an annual basis.

Perhaps you are not sure whether to use your aircraft or charter for a particular mission. If your aircraft is capable of performing the trip- and is available- it is generally best to use your own aircraft. You have already made the investment in the aircraft- crew- hangar- etc. The next hour your aircraft flies will cost you only in terms of the variable expenses (fuel and maintenance accruals). When you charter- you pay for the aircraft and crew- plus an additional 7.5% Federal Excise Tax on those expenses.

If you do choose the charter route for one of those occasional trips your own aircraft won’t be able to fulfil- though- how should you select your charter aircraft and provider?

Look no further than your own crew or management company- who will know what your requirements are and how to evaluate the service and safety qualifications of a prospective charter provider. Your management company itself will often offer a charter service. If this is the case- the management company that you know and trust would be your first stop for supplemental charter airlift.

If you know that you need 25 hours or more of supplemental airlift- then you may wish to evaluate a jet card as opposed to charter. This is a block of charter hours from a single supplier that has a guaranteed price. The supplier may offer a specific make/model- or a category of aircraft (e.g. light jets). Several also offer a choice between round-trip pricing and one-way pricing. Which is best for you will really depend on your specific travel needs.

If your supplemental lift requirements exceed 25 hours per year for a single category aircraft and these requirements are likely to occur on an annual basis- then it may be time to also look at fractional aircraft with their five-year contracts.

In essence- charter aircraft can be an excellent source for supplemental aircraft when you need a few more hours and your aircraft is unavailable or not capable of a particular (minority) trip.

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