Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Traveling By “Corporate” Airplane

A local breakfast flight emphasizes the value of corporate aviation

Our legislators then suggested that all three companies should divest themselves of their corporate airplanes and expressed amazement when no one volunteered to do so. Such a suggestion demonstrates a lack of understanding of the value of corporate aircraft. We can take issue with a great many aspects of government bailouts or privatizations, but it’s not the best use of a top executive’s time to wait around air terminals as the person tries to be all the places he or she needs to be in a week or a day.

Unfortunately, comments about corporate aviation have had the desired effect. Both Ford and General Motors have scaled back or sold off their flight departments, and Chrysler has vowed to reduce operations. It’s almost as if the economic laws that dictated the wisdom of those purchases in the first place have been repealed.

The simple fact is that corporate and business airplanes make sense for a variety of applications. Okay, we’ve probably all seen the proliferation of business jets and turboprops at places such as Aspen or the venue for the Super Bowl, but is that any more immoral than driving your Toyota to the country club or your Audi to the marina for a day of sailing?

In many instances, a business plane is the only viable method of reaching a destination. It also can be the most efficient. Obviously, corporate aircraft of most varieties expand the places you can fly and improve the schedule to get there.

You’re no longer limited to the roughly 300 airports served by the airlines; your horizons expand to some 4,000 paved strips and, perhaps, even some unpaved, boondock runways.

We’ve all seen examples of salary and bonus abuse in the corporate world, but I for one accept the fact that the majority of executives are worth what they’re paid. A little simple math is revealing. High-level corporate execs rarely work as little as a standard 40-hour week, but if you grant that assumption, a $5-million-per-year exec is paid about $2,500 per hour. Coincidentally, that’s roughly the hourly tab of a typical light to medium jet, such as a Citation Excel. Of course, bizjets rarely fly with only one passenger. According to the NBAA, it’s usually more like two or three. I’ve been fortunate to pilot, copilot or ride in back of corporate jets a few dozen times, and I’ve never been in one with less than four people aboard (except for ferry flights).

This means it can make economic sense to transport a pair of executives on a jet rather than the airlines. Does it really make sense to pay someone $2,500 per hour, then have the person commute to an airline airport, wait for baggage check-in, security and boarding, wait a half hour or more for baggage claim at the destination and then commute an indeterminate distance to the job or meeting site only to repeat the whole process for the return?


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