8:30 PM

Can't Tell the
Players Without
a Program.

Each day it seems, we hear about yet another “air taxi service” that is dredging up financing to begin riding the wave of air charter excitement that is being fueled by the invention of the VLJ.

In fact, in my aviation advertising business, we have heard from a number of upstart air taxi companies, all with great intentions, all with a business model based on the Eclipse 500, but none with the mountain of cash to remain in business until new E500s start flying out of the factory several times a day. We have also heard from people basing their air taxi service on the Embraer Phenom 100, and others choosing Cirrus SR22 G3s as their platform.

As the air taxi horse race runs parallel to the VLJ horse race, it requires full-time work to keep up with the daily changes, news, announcements and rumors. So when I stumble across an air taxi company I had not heard of, it is news to me, but of course not to the world. I may be coming late to the party on this one, but I think Pogo Jet has one of the best chances of anyone at making their business model turn a profit. Maybe this is because a veteran of the airline wars is at the helm:

Heading up POGO is one of the aviation industry's most recognized innovators, Chairman and CEO Robert Crandall, former CEO of American Airlines. While at American Airlines, Bob led the development of the SABRE reservation system and implemented the industry's first frequent flyer program. Joining Bob is a talented team with experience at such innovative ventures as JetBlue, NetJets, and Southwest Airlines.experience in aviation, information technology, and finance.
After reading that, I went off to research Pogo on the Internets, to see what planes they will be flying. But a stop at their site proved quite nebulus, which piqued my interest as to why they weren't shouting their choice of planes from the rooftops:
POGO will fly an entirely new fleet of next-generation aircraft piloted and serviced by carefully and professionally trained crews. These exciting new planes will offer an unprecedented level of performance, safety, and value.
This gray area surrounding their choice of planes led me to believe it might be Eclipse they were thinking about, so I went to Eclipse's site for clues and found this from an April, 2007 release:
Pogo Jets is back on track to launch its point-to-point “air limo” service as early as June 2008 and expects to turn a profit by early 2010 as it works to ramp up its fleet of Very Light Jets. And Pogo CEO Robert Crandall says the Eclipse 500 VLJ just might suit Pogo’s business model. While Pogo hasn’t ordered Eclipse jets yet, Crandall said his business model would work with a plane like the Eclipse 500, adding that the aircraft “will be a pretty good airplane for a long time to come.” Crandall said Adam Aircraft is “some distance from certification” of its VLJ, and Cessna “isn’t interested in the fleet business.” Crandall didn’t mention the new Embraer VLJ aircraft, but said he “could see adding” the new HondaJet down the road for longer flights.
Confused? Well maybe this quote from Pogo Jets President Cameron Burr on the May 18th Avweb Podcast will clarify the issue:
“We are in what I would characterize as advanced discussions with Eclipse Aviation,” Burr said.
So maybe we'll see Pogo go with a mix of planes? The E500 for short hops, and the HondaJet for longer runs? Hmmm. While not the resident expert on this, I sure can't recall another air taxi company out there with a one-two punch featuring the low initial price and operating costs of the Eclipse with the sexy ramp appeal of the beautiful HondaJet.

A prediction: Five years from now, when the air taxi business shakes out the wannabes and only the serious companies with large marketing budgets are left standing, I expect Pogo Jet to be one of the strongest players still in the game.

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