Are there some business travel needs your aircraft can’t fulfil? David Wyndham explores the option of supplemental lift. What is supplemental lift, and how can you use it as an appropriate add-on in your current aircraft operations?
Supplemental lift may be a logical alternative to your current aircraft. As the term implies, supplemental lift is an add-on to your current operation – it is not a replacement for your current aircraft. What it does is to achieve a means of expanding your operation without adding another aircraft, extra crew, and support.
It may be that you have a specific need for short-term lift if an aircraft in your operation is undergoing a major maintenance event. Or you may need extra flight hours beyond what your current aircraft can support.
Alternatively, there may be several unique missions on the horizon for which your current aircraft is unsuitable. Perhaps you simply wish to bridge the gap before acquiring another aircraft as your flight operation grows.
Thankfully, there is a range of supplemental lift options available that offer a modest number of additional flight hours without the costs associated with actually owning an extra aircraft.
Within this article, we will consider the following questions:
- What are aircraft charter, jet cards and fractional ownership?
- When does supplemental lift make sense?
What are Aircraft Charter, Jet Cards & Fractional Ownership?
Aircraft charter enables you to rent an aircraft for a trip. With charter, you pay the entire time the aircraft is flying (including any unoccupied i.e. ‘deadhead’ legs without you aboard). Therefore, charter costs are minimized with round-trip travel. Aircraft charter tends to work particularly well if one or more well-qualified providers operate the aircraft type you need close to your location.
Jet cards are a form of pre-purchased charter. Some jet card programs are aligned with a major fractional ownership company (such as NetJets). Other providers offer a broker arrangement where they sell you the time and find the qualified operator for you. Most jet card providers offer both one-way and round-trip pricing.
Fractional ownership enables you to purchase or lease a share of an aircraft in proportion to the additional flying that you plan to do. This may be a good way to bridge the gap between insufficient current aircraft availability and developing sufficient need to justify buying an additional aircraft outright. Operators who purchase a fractional share can choose to sell it back to the provider at the end of the contract.
When Does Supplemental Lift Make Sense?
As highlighted through the different options, supplemental lift can be a short- or long-term solution. The hours can vary with your needs. To illustrate, and also highlight how and when supplemental lift makes sense, following are some real-life examples.
Extended Downtime: One operator I work with has an aircraft that’s almost 12 years old. They fly regularly and the aircraft is fast approaching a major maintenance check and engine overhauls. The avionics suite is outdated and the principal wants to add in-flight cabin connectivity. Additionally, the paint and interior are in need of a refresh.
Having conducted a financial analysis, the operator concluded that the aircraft value prior to the work being done is lower than they would sell it for. Moreover, the cost of a newer replacement aircraft is more than they wish to spend. The plan, therefore, is for them to complete the overhauls and upgrades at the same time, with an expected downtime of at least four months.
This means a temporary solution is required that effectively replaces their aircraft for the time it will take to complete the maintenance and upgrades.
An estimated 120 flight hours will be needed over those four months, and the operator has chosen aircraft charter as the right option to fulfil this demand.
Fortunately, they’re located in a city with several large charter operators nearby and were able to negotiate a block of hours with a local provider with a top safety rating.
Expanding Mission Need: A different corporate client recently expanded operations to a distant city and their current aircraft cannot make that trip non-stop. The client estimates flying one trip per month for approximately eight flight hours, representing a 20% increase in their flying activity. To upsize to a larger aircraft would increase the operating budget by almost 90%.
The cost to buy the larger business jet is nearly three times what their current jet is worth. Over the course of a year, the client would need less than 100 hours flying a longer-range jet and their demand analysis indicates this utilization is likely to remain steady and long-term.
In addition, avoiding a fuel stop on 20% of the trips wouldn’t be worth the added investment in a new, larger jet. But what if the client were to supplement their operations with added lift?
The client was able to find a fractional ownership solution to meet their needs at a fraction of the cost of replacing their current aircraft. When they near the end of their current contract, they will reassess their need and budget, revisiting the question of acquiring a larger business jet.
Growing Operation: One last example is of a flight operation growing at 15% per year. Corporate projections indicate that this rate of growth will continue and there are new departments asking for use of the aircraft.
In their analysis, the client’s aviation department estimates that they can meet the additional demand for the next 18–24 months by hiring a new pilot and combining a few trips each month. Acquiring another aircraft may take between six and nine months.
The company hired a consultant who performed an aircraft needs analysis. The report confirmed the aviation department’s internal findings and recommended that a second aircraft be purchased within the year. The report also recommended adding supplemental lift within the next six months to maintain the department’s ability to meet trip requests without any disruption.
Accordingly, they purchased a jet card offering them the additional projected flight hours. The card program includes price guarantees for 12 months with the initial purchase.
Simultaneous Travel Needs: One more consideration might be the scenario where you occasionally need simultaneous aircraft. If you anticipate multiple overlapping requests for the aircraft, a supplemental option, such as a charter, jet card or fractional ownership might make sense.
Next month we will continue our discussion with consideration of how to choose the right aircraft, and then manage the supplemental lift as you grow into another aircraft…