The Enlightened Business Traveler
Keeping the Competitive Spirit Alive
Written and Produced by Mark Patiky
In this turbulent economy, the last thing your company should consider is the added expense of a business aircraft, right? Wrong. While news headlines graphically portray the excesses of airborne executives, today’s persevering business owners have the real story.
The media hype is completely misguided, says Terry Groff, president and chief executive officer of Robesonia, Pa.-based Reading Bakery Systems, who touts his Cessna Citation jet as his 100-employee company’s most vital asset. Far from an indulgence, the plane “is critical to our growth,” he says. And like Groff, a growing number of today’s savvy professionals are realizing that in these uncertain times, a business jet truly spells success.
The Future of Business Is Looking Up
The Enlightened Business Traveler is your personal guide to the evolving world of business aviation. It examines a wide range of aircraft types, from sophisticated small planes you can fly yourself to ultra-long-range, large-cabin jets, genuine offices in the sky that can reach from here to anywhere with a maximum single stop.
But today’s real top story? You don’t even have to own an airplane to reap the benefits. A wide range of access opportunities makes business aircraft advantages increasingly affordable and available to a more massive audience than ever before. So witness how companies just like yours are gaining a significant competitive advantage in today’s challenging marketplace, and discover how a business aircraft will make your own productivity soar.
The Case for
“Many in the media and some politicians have misrepresented business aircraft as a symbol of excess instead of an increasingly necessary business tool,” says Charles Mayer, vice president, marketing, at Hawker Beechcraft. “This negative stereotype is damaging the ability of American corporations to compete globally.”
But while public misperception conjures up images of luxury and overindulgence, more than 10,000 companies across the nation — some 85% of which are small and midsize firms — will tell you otherwise.
“You’ve got to take advantage of all of the tools available to maximize your profitability,” explains Charles Luck, president and chief executive officer of Luck Stone Corporation. He adds that his company’s Beechcraft King Air “is no different than any other tool that we have in the company. We have a loader we use to load stone with. It costs $1 million, and that is a business tool. And to me, our plane is a business tool for moving people.”
Leonard Wessell, chief executive officer of W3 LLC, agrees. “Although the public’s view of business aircraft has changed, I still maintain that the value proposition has not changed a bit,” he says. “Yes, it is a significant investment and you have to use it wisely, but I firmly believe that it is invaluable for our businesses.”
FLIGHT LOG >> Hannay Reels
How do you reel in customers when you are a 75-year-old family-owned business located in Westerlo, N.Y.? If you’re Roger Hannay, president of Hannay Reels, you do it the old-fashioned way with an “emphasis on quality, service and delivery,” he says, “and nothing substitutes for face-to-face contact with our customers and suppliers.”
Hannay’s small company, which employs nearly half the town’s population of 400, builds over 70,000 hose, cable and storage reels each year. Like many small businesses that keep the economy humming, however, Hannay Reels has a rural location, and so do many of its customers and suppliers across the nation. “Of the 20 sales calls I made recently in Michigan and Ohio, probably 15 of them fit that description,” he says. Albany, the nearest commercial airport, has only a few direct flights daily to suit his needs, so airline flying isn’t a good option. That’s why Hannay’s best tool for staying in touch is the company’s fast, all-composite Hawker Beechcraft Premier 1A jet, which gives him nationwide reach.
Probably the biggest benefit of using his own aircraft, he says, “is the ability to go where we want to go and not where airlines send us.” Flying the Premier enables Hannay and his small sales team to conduct essential meetings in hundreds of smaller locations. He frequently flies customers into his plant in Westerlo, and recently his plant engineer took a group of prospects to several customer installations in a tristate area. These are trips that wouldn’t be made at all without the company plane, he says. “Our success depends on it.”
More than 80% of the business aircraft in use today are not large corporate aircraft, but rather small to midsize jets, turboprops and piston-powered airplanes, according to the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA). In addition, NBAA-commissioned surveys including a Louis Harris poll show that more than 70% of passengers aboard business airplanes are from mid-level corporate ranks, such as salespeople, engineers, researchers and technicians. They typically are doing things like delivering parts on demand or discussing proprietary information in real time, neither of which can be accomplished effectively aboard a commercial flight. Even independent accounting firm studies show that business aircraft add value to a company’s bottom line and that companies operating business aircraft outperform competitors that don’t.
“Business aviation is essential to America,” Ed Bolen, president and chief executive officer of NBAA, recently told a congressional subcommittee. “These are tools many companies absolutely rely on to remain competitive and survive, especially in this unforgiving marketplace.”
Jack Pelton, Cessna Aircraft chairman, president and chief executive officer, seconds that opinion. “Business aviation will help companies not only survive but prosper during the current financial crisis. We are demanding business leaders and managers work at their absolute peak to turn their companies, and our economy, around,” he says. “Business aviation provides the means to do just that. It is a tool that allows companies to get the most out of every minute of every day — exactly what is needed to work our way toward economic recovery.”
“The companies that divest themselves of business aircraft will surely be at a competitive
disadvantage. Do you really want your CEO sitting in an airport for four hours waiting for an airline
connection that may never come? Cost savings? You may not even see any cost savings.”
Charles Mayer, Vice President, Marketing, Hawker Beechcraft
While airlines serve fewer than 450 airports in the U.S., business aircraft are touching down at more than 5,000 local airfields much closer to raw materials suppliers, skilled labor pools and affordable real estate. “These aircraft are essential for making companies more competitive in a global marketplace,” says General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) President and Chief Executive Officer Pete Bunce. “They are a lifeline for communities all across the country and a direct link to customers, vendors and suppliers located in the thousands of communities around the nation and across the globe that are poorly served by commercial airline service.”
“For companies that either are headquartered in or have plants, facilities or customers in small or midsize communities, the need for a business aircraft has probably never been greater,” says NBAA’s Bolen. Michimasa Fujino, president and chief executive officer of Honda Aircraft Company, Inc., concurs. “If you don’t have efficient tools to gain access, you probably will not maximize the use of those resources,” he points out.
FLIGHT LOG >> MacNeil Automotive Products Limited
David MacNeil refuses to let the downshift in the economy slam the brakes on profits at his Downers Grove, Ill.-based automotive products business. As founder and chief executive officer of MacNeil Automotive Products Limited, he is fueling growth with his company’s economical Cessna Citation CJ3. “It’s a time multiplier,” he says. With automobile manufacturers, warehouse distributors and major catalogs as clients, it’s proven invaluable for getting his key people to customers nationwide, often in commercially inaccessible locations such as Sidney, Nebr.; Huntingburg, Ind.; Londonderry, N.H.; Pontiac, Mich.; or Ocala, Fla.
Because he can send managers, designers and engineers together with large, fragile mock-ups, he maximizes the value of each trip. “There is a great deal of business that we’ve earned because we can get to the customer,” he says. “It’s about getting there quickly, efficiently and with all the tools we need to do the job effectively.”
The speed at which he can build client relationships has never been better. “I’m much more effective creating more business, jobs and revenue for my company with the aircraft than without it,” MacNeil says. “Our sales were up 20% for 2008, and they’re holding very strong in 2009.” Would his business remain in high gear without the CJ3? “Absolutely not,” he emphasizes. “It’s as essential to growing our business as a new 1,000-ton injection-molding machine.”
The business jet isn’t merely a way to travel faster. It’s an office that moves with you. Thanks to the latest advances from companies like Rockwell Collins, even at 500 mph and 40,000 feet, the business aircraft cabin is as functional as any office or boardroom anywhere on earth.
“At a time when we are facing unprecedented economic challenges, U.S. businesses need tools that will help them enhance productivity and maintain strong communications,” says NBAA’s Ed Bolen. An office aloft can be just the ticket. And with six, eight or ten seats available at no extra cost, business aircraft can maximize their time by bringing other executives, managers and support staff with them, he points out.
“You are flying in a secure, discrete environment where you can actually work while you fly,” says Rockwell Collins Chairman Clayton Jones. His company has a range of products that allow you to manage information in the cabin and remain in constant contact with the world below at broadband speeds.
“Venue,” for example, is Rockwell Collins’ display and control system that brings high-definition screen quality into even the smallest business aircraft cabins. This fully integrated cabin system accepts virtually any portable audio or video input and provides the latest in business connectivity, including wireless laptop networking for presentations, entertainment — even control of lighting and temperature — from any seat. Another Rockwell Collins breakthrough called “Airshow” offers multimedia and 3-D graphics and displays up-to-the-minute news, finance, sports and weather data from Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, Intellicast and ESPN.
Now you can travel with Wolf Blitzer or Lou Dobbs, thanks to Rockwell Collins’ next-generation airborne TV, offering coverage throughout the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. Even the smallest aircraft are gaining the advantage of high-speed Internet and satellite communications. That means vital, real-time information anytime.
FLIGHT LOG >> Formula One Group
Thirty years ago, Bernie Ecclestone saw untapped opportunities through TV deals and major sponsorships that would eventually take Formula One into the mainstream of championship competitive car racing. Today, as chief executive of the Formula One Group, Ecclestone heads up one of the hottest motor sports worldwide. “I think there is no [Formula One] circuit in the world we have not had a direct involvement in improving and in most cases creating,” he says.
It’s no surprise that Ecclestone learned the value of business aviation early on in his career. Today, his “need for speed” is so intense that he traded his Dassault Falcon 2000EX for a brand-new Falcon 7X. “Now I can go a lot farther, a lot quicker,” he says. Dassault’s latest intercontinental jet has the ability to go anywhere around the globe with only a single refueling stop, and with the Falcon’s noteworthy field performance, he can comfortably land at smaller airfields close to the circuits in Singapore, Australia, Japan or Brazil. “I couldn’t get to the places I need to get to otherwise,” he says. “Now, I can go to two or three countries in one day and do things I could never do via scheduled airline. It is one of the most important tools I have.”
As to the latest media frenzy in the U.S., he comments, “When executives say ‘Look, we’re saving money — we got rid of the airplane,’ they don’t tell how much they’re losing by getting rid of the airplane.”
Digital flight deck developments are equally exciting. New technology delivers a wealth of critical information to pilots, enhancing safety, utility and uncompromised airfield access. Rockwell Collins’ latest development incorporating “synthetic vision” displays large-screen computer-generated daylight images of the terrain below, so the flight crew can virtually reference the outside world even when they can’t see it.
“Enhanced vision,” using infrared sensors, provides even greater clarity by displaying animals or vehicles on the ground, dramatically increasing safety at night and in the worst weather. Combined on a “head-up display,” the pilot can look through the windscreen at a holographic image, which is derived from all the sensors, projected over his real-world view. It is the ultimate in informational enhancement and enables unprecedented levels of situational awareness and safety.
The capabilities keep growing, says Jones. “Today in business, speed is life. You’ve got to have access to information and have the ability to respond quickly. That’s what business aviation does, and the revolution in connectivity will do even more.”
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