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When selecting a business aircraft, be cautious of those offering well-meaning advice.
A new client recently approached me for guidance regarding what business aircraft to purchase. I asked where he needed to fly, how many people would be carried and other questions related to the aircraft's use, and then prepared a proposal for studying his firm’ mission requirements.
A few days later, he called back and thanked me for my time but said he'd made up his mind. I asked the reason for his decision as he seemed so uncertain a week prior. He stated that his good friend has a business jet for his company and was really enjoying the freedom of having his own aircraft. So he was going to order the same make and model…
The two men are longtime friends, but their two companies serve different markets and have different mission needs. The guidance of a trusted buddy is valuable, but asking whether he liked his company’s aircraft is hardly sufficient research for selecting an effective business tool for your firm. Neither CEO completely understood how well the friend’s current aircraft would be able to meet my prospect's air travel needs.
Having Board Members (or associates) with Business Aviation experience is valuable since they can guide you to ask the right questions and help you set up the proper management oversight for the flight department. They can tell you what works for them and their company, which is helpful in your decision-making, but their opinions should not be definitive.
The number one consideration is aligning the choice of business aircraft with the strategic goals of the company. Coca-Cola and Pepsi are essentially in the same business, but their goals are not identical. Their respective flight departments operate different aircraft. Both companies want the right tool to meet the requirements of their enterprise. Aircraft selection is derived from a careful consideration of the best uses of Business Aviation in the support of the corporation’s missions.
For those who are new to Business Aviation, just having access to any business aircraft can seem to be a blessing. One senior executive who used to spend a day and several hops traveling from the firm’s location in the Southeastern US to its Northeast operating location stated she didn't mind using the belted lavatory seat as her spot on the corporate shuttle. Spending 2.5 hours on that seat was far preferable to the day spent in coach! That was her first exposure to business aircraft, and she was grateful to be able to have most of her day being productive.
That aircraft did well as a shuttle, but that senior executive’s company needed to evaluate (better) alternatives. Mission must drive aircraft requirements. Thus knowing the key missions of the firm is critical:
- What will define the successful use of the aircraft in supporting the corporate strategic goals?
- What is the main reason for having this aircraft?
- Are there other missions for using the aircraft?
- For what sort of travel needs will the aircraft be used?
- Mission analysis also applies if you already operate aircraft.
- Is there a change in mission that dictates a different aircraft?
- Is the aircraft you currently fly getting too costly to operate?
- Does time spent awaiting maintenance decrease the availability of the aircraft?
Anticipating future needs is critical is getting the aircraft best suited to your air travel mission.
Ask questions about where you will be flying; how many people will be travelling; and what will be their baggage needs.
Who will have access to the aircraft (an aircraft reserved for senior leadership can be a very different make/model than a corporate shuttle even if both are flying similar trips). Will the travel schedule be out and back in the same day, or will it be multi-day (or longer) trips?
Do you need access to the aircraft during normal business hours, or also during nights and weekends? How often will two or more users need to use the aircraft during the same timeframe? Where is the closet airport to your office location? Can that landing facility support the type of aircraft you need? A careful mission analysis will lead to these and more questions, and their answers will guide the development of measurable criteria for aircraft selection.
You don't want to buy too much aircraft, nor do you want to obtain an aircraft that meets only your immediate needs and fails to meet your growing requirements in a few years. Worst of all, don't buy just to join the business aircraft owners’ club. A business aircraft is a powerful productivity tool that allow you to make the most of your time, but only if it fits with your needs.