Business Aviation Still Provides a Competitive Advantage

11:27 AM

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

These days, I spend a lot of time thinking (and writing) about business aviation. As a freelance aviation scribe, it seems more and more assignments cross my desk in this realm every week. And each time I launch a new project, it hits me that here we are in 2017 and business aircraft are still the secret weapon of choice for many companies who want to find that one extra advantage over their competition.
The idea for this post came while lounging in the sauna at my gym. Chit-chat ensued, and a guy asked me what I did. When I told him I was a writer, and he asked what I wrote. “Most writing about business aviation these days,” I told him. “You mean, like movie stars in private jets?” was his reply. I swiftly and thoroughly explained that no, “business aircraft” does not just mean movie stars eclipsing the poles in their Gulfstream to sip Chardonnay in Paris. Of course that happens, good for them, they have the net worth to afford the best form of air travel ever invented. But he had it all wrong.
I told him that the vast majority of business aircraft are used as tools by smart companies to transport their key people more efficiently. I explained that a business aircraft can take many forms, from small to very large…but they all serve the very same purpose. To further illustrate my point, I presented these three stories:
Back in the late 1990s, I landed a job as Director of Marketing at a company in Central California that manufactured air brakes for large commercial trucks. I beat out two people with Masters degrees because the owner who was interviewing me was a pilot, and the company flew a retractable Cessna Turbo Skylane. When he found out I was also a pilot, well you know how we aviators stick together, right?
I got the job, and spent many hours in that Skylane flying between Fresno and Yuma, AZ, just across the border from where their factory was in San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico. The owner and his son made weekly flights down there, often loading it up with cartons of air brakes on warranty return destined for remanufacturing. You know that joke about a Skylane being able to haul anything you can slam the doors on? Believe it. While they did take great care to never exceed legal gross weight, I can tell you most flights had mere ounces to spare.
This Skylane was a workhorse for the owners. It was their non-stop ticket from Fresno to Yuma, and if something went haywire at the factory at 10 a.m., the owner could blast off from KFAT, suck up the gear, get the turbo blowing and be down there in early afternoon to sort things out.
This is what a business airplane can do.
Then there was the flight from KORD to KSFO coming home from Oshkosh one year. I was seated next to a burly construction foreman who looked right out of central casting, without the hard hat. He obviously had been working hard all day, and he and eight of his crew around us were heading off to the next job site to install very large industrial pumps.
In our casual banter while in the flight levels somewhere over Ottumwa, he started griping about how his crew was always getting stuck at airports, how inconvenient the scheduled airlines had become, and how much it cost the company to check their tool boxes. But when he told me there were four nine-man crews in the company scattered around the USA also putting up with the airlines, the business aviation salesman in me sprung into action.
“Have you ever heard of a Pilatus PC-12?” I asked. He had not. I went on to explain that with four nine-man crews criss-crossing the country all toting large tool boxes, his company could buy one PC-12 and crew it to operate 24/7, shuttling these crews around the country. They’d save a ton of money and travel would be seriously more efficient. Drop off a crew in Dallas, hop over to Phoenix and take the next crew to Seattle. Deadhead to Boise for a pick-up and whisk that crew off to Atlanta. Rinse and repeat.
He was astounded that one business aircraft could do all that. I told him yes, it absolutely could. With the high dispatch rate of the Pilatus and sufficient crew to keep it flying seven days a week, he and his crews could be flown right into small airports just a few miles from their job sites, jump into a couple of rented vans, and be on site and working 30 minutes after wheels down. He was blown away, and promised to lean on the CEO to go shopping for a PC-12 as soon as he got back to the home office.
This is what a business airplane can do.
Last, there was the Morey family of Madison, Wisconsin. You might know of Field Morey as owner of IFRwest and one of the country’s best certified instrument instructors. He currently flies a G1000-equipped late model Turbo Skylane and a brand new Cessna TTx taking students on IFR Adventures throughout the West, including Alaska. Both airplanes are true business aircraft, as his business would be non-existent without them.
But decades before Field began flying these IFR adventure flights into “real-world” IFR weather, his father - a Cessna distributor - would load the family up in a Cessna and head off to do some aviation business. “My father was a "distributor" for Cessna from 1946 until 1962,” Morey said, “and he had dealers throughout Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. The dealers sold the planes to their customers and purchased the planes from the distributors. During the late 40's and early 50's, our family would tour the territory primarily on weekends while my father would conduct demonstrations of the various models, including the 120, 140, 170, 180 and 195.”
The 195 Businessliner holds a special place in Morey’s heart, and has done so since early childhood. “I was contacted by a young woman from Goodland, KS who owned a 1954 195A,” Morey explains. “The original logs contained the entry, "5-11-54 ICT-C29 H.A. Morey". She wondered if I was related, and yes, H.A. Morey was my father. She invited me to fly N2160C, the plane that I had the job of polishing as a kid while working at my dad's airport during the summer. It belonged to Oscar Mayer & Co. at the time and was a working business aircraft. I accepted her invite and rekindled my love of 60 Charlie by flying her around the patch in Kansas on a beautiful September day. The Cessna 195 was and always will be my dream machine."
That was just three stories of the enormous value a business aircraft can bring to companies large and small. You do not need to fly a Global Express to gain a competitive advantage over your competition; almost any make/model will do the trick. As long as they are stuck in traffic or waiting for the next airline excuse du jour about why their flight was delayed or cancelled, you will smoke ‘em when you utilize your own business aircraft.
If any of this sounds like a recipe for success your company should investigate, is the place to start. And if you are reading this while sitting at a large airport waiting…again…for yet another delayed flight to make you miss a critical meeting, well, there is a better way.
Yes, that is what a business airplane can do.

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