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AIRCRAFT CHARTER CONSIDERATIONS
(PART 1)

Smart choices make for satisfying transportation

The advantages of using private aircraft for business travel continue to improve as the commercial airlines continue to raise their prices and charge extra for services that were once covered in the basic ticket cost. Not every company can justify owning an aircraft of their own- but charter can certainly offer some the benefits of Business Aviation with minimum investment.

If you should reach a decision that aircraft charter is the correct solution for your travel needs- you will soon realize that you have further choices to make - not least choosing the right airplane for the planned trip.

The process of choosing the right airplane for your charter trip involves so much more than ascertaining its size. This article explains how airplane sizes can either limit or fulfill your mission- and how to define what you need when selecting a charter aircraft for your mission.

Three major elements should be considered in particular: passenger count- the length of flight and the destination airport.

Passenger Count
How many seats a business aircraft offers can hide limitations on the use of those seats- thus failing to answer the question “What aircraft do I need for my mission?”

Light jets- many medium and some large category jets typically offer cabin configurations that seat six to eight passengers- and some even accommodate 10. However- they vary greatly in their ability to use those seats.

It’s a fundamental principle for small and medium private aircraft that the number of seats you fill will have a negative effect on the distance you can fly. On any given flight the more people you put in the cabin- the less fuel the airplane can carry – and fuel carried influences the potential range the airplane can travel.

A light jet capable of carrying fuel to fly 1-200 miles non-stop may only be able to transport its crew and one or two passengers when fueled to achieve its maximum range. Yet as jets get bigger their ability to carry maximum fuel and maximum people more closely align. Factor this knowledge into your selection of the right charter aircraft for the mission.

Flight Length
Once you know the number of passengers you will need to carry on your trip- the next step is to consider the distance you will be traveling. The length of the trip (or its longest leg- if there are several stops on your trip) can help define your aircraft ‘needs’- versus your aircraft ‘desires’ more than any other factor except for passenger count.

Almost any business jet can carry four to five passengers for a non-stop 500-mile trip- for example. Conversely- few of the smaller jets can carry five passengers with their luggage and still launch with enough fuel to fly their maximum potential range.

To fly a trip with a 1-200-1-500-mile range carrying five passengers- plus crew- you will generally need an aircraft in the larger-medium jet category. It may still seat only six to eight passengers- but its larger cabin and engines typically come with sufficient fuel to fly longer trips. The aircraft will be bigger than a light jet in terms of cabin volume- but no bigger than most in terms of its seating capacity.

The added cost differential between a medium and light business jet needs to be balanced against the time and inconvenience of making one (or more) stops along the journey to your destination.

A light jet will cost significantly less to charter than a medium jet - and if it can accommodate the needed passengers on a shorter 500 to 750 mile business trip- there is no need to pay more to charter a medium jet to cover a shorter range. The respective times taken to accomplish the flight won’t vary enough to make the marginally-faster medium jet worth the extra money in terms of time saved.

Destination Airport
Finally- you need to consider whether you have a choice of airports at which you can land- or whether your choice is limited to just one? The importance of this question revolves- once again- around airplane performance.

Some jets you can charter will need more runway length than others (aircraft size is the usual guideline as to how much). The bigger the airplane- the more runway length is likely to be needed.

Let us imagine that your Vice President of Regional Sales needs to reach a destination that is served by an airport with a maximum runway length of 4-000 feet. Your Vice President of Regional Sales is tall and dislikes smaller aircraft- therefore he favors medium jets. The fact remains that the selected jet must be able to safely use that 4-000- foot runway.

In reality- many medium jets would be unable to use a 4-000- foot runway- but most light jets capable of carrying the five or six passengers of our discussion could.

Putting personal preferences aside- your Vice President of Regional Sales wouldn’t enjoy much success in convincing a legitimate- safety-oriented charter operation to risk damaging their airplane (or its occupants) by trying to land on a runway that is too short.

That would leave you the choice of using a smaller airplane (saving money)- or picking the closest airport with enough runway to accommodate a larger aircraft - which may also mean accepting a longer drive to the business meeting (costing extra money and time).

The above scenario is used for illustrative purposes only- but it should serve to demonstrate that picking the right charter solution for your company is a tailor-made process to address your exact needs- flight by flight.


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