The Enlightened Business Traveler
Gaining a Competitive Advantage in a Recovering Economy
Written and Produced by Mark Patiky
“In a business downturn, that’s the time when you’ve got to get out and see people more frequently,” says Dr. Edmund O. Schweitzer, president and chief executive officer of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories of Pullman, Wash. “We’re doing that; we’re growing, and our business aircraft are a big part of that,” he emphasizes.
Despite a wavering U.S. economy, the need for a company plane is stronger than ever. What’s driving the interest? “Time value increases when companies must react with speed and agility to rapidly changing market conditions,” says Sentient Jet Chief Executive Officer Steven M. Hankin. The recovering economy in the U.S. and abroad is creating new opportunities for business, but it also means companies need to focus on new ways of operating, he says. “It’s not the time to be waiting for the next airline flight.”
Our nation may have put a man on the moon, but our airline industry still has a hard time getting him from Asheville to Albuquerque. And the disparity in speed and convenience with airline travel likely will only grow. Higher fares, longer lines, more delays and scaled-back service will persist as the airlines continue to face turbulent times. Combine that with corporate cost-cutting and slimming management ranks, and it becomes increasingly clear that conquering time and space will be key factors in the new economy.
All this has not gone unnoticed by thousands of companies and entrepreneurs worldwide that have learned the secret of creating time. Today some 15,000 companies, entrepreneurs and individuals around the world operate more than 23,000 business aircraft, which they consider essential tools. Add to that another 8,000 or more who have chosen fractional ownership and prepaid jet cards and thousands more who enjoy the freedom of on-demand charter on any given day.
Even the smallest companies are finding that a business aircraft can help them gain a big advantage in edging out their larger competition. Amazingly, you don’t even have to own one to gain all the valuable benefits.
“Having the plane is not a convenience, it’s a necessity,” says the president of a Florida-based clothing retailer who owns a fractional share. An East Coast building materials supplier who owns a jet card agrees: “These [business] jets are not an option. They give us mobility. You have to be where the action is. You have to respond to new opportunities.”
American Seafoods Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bernt Bodal considers management time to be as perishable as his trawlers’ cargo. That’s why the company’s Bombardier Challenger 300, which efficiently moves managers between operations in the U.S., Iceland, Alaska, Europe and Asia, has such essential value. “The flexibility of having our own plane enables us to go whenever we need on short notice, meet customers, deal with bankers or investigate potential opportunities.”
That’s just the beginning. Today’s business aircraft often are better equipped than many offices on the ground, featuring phone, fax, TV and wireless Internet. So you don’t just get there faster, you get there ready. That has certainly been true for Bodal’s management team. “It’s like being in your office,” he says of the Challenger’s cabin.
“Now is the time to work harder than ever, to be in more places than ever, to spend
time with your customers, and to look for new markets, because as we
recover all those things will be required to grow your business.”
Shawn Vick, Executive Vice President, Hawker Beechcraft Corporation
Business aircraft enable executives to visit multiple cities in a day; to compress long, wasted hours of commercial air travel to short, intensely productive time; and to bring key prospects to a facility. The ability to land at thousands of local airports across the country means unfettered access to virtually any U.S. community. In addition to the flexibility to travel on your own schedule, productivity soars aboard a private aircraft, where you can travel with comfort and confidentiality.
It’s not only tight schedules that drive the growth of business aviation. It’s bottom-line results. Virginia consulting firm NEXA Advisors, LLC, conducted a study of S&P 500 companies in 2009 and found that over a five-year period, companies that used business aircraft had twice the total shareholder return, and their earnings were 434% higher than those of companies that did not use business aircraft.
What’s more, of the S&P 500 firms appearing on popular lists of the most innovative companies, the best places to work, the best at customer service, the best brands and the most admired, NEXA determined that an average of 92% used business aircraft. For those in the know, this comes as no surprise. “These jets get us there ahead of the competition,” says the managing partner of a New England-based commercial real estate investor group. “It’s the value of business gained or lost that matters most, not the cost of travel.”
The Enlightened Business Traveler is your boarding pass to this new world of travel. It examines the wide range of business aircraft types, from large-cabin jets used to shuttle an entourage cross-country to small, fuel-efficient models for routine regional travel that are more flexible, affordable and capable than ever. It also details the diverse access options that have opened the skies to businesses of all sizes, from outright ownership to no-obligation jet cards. It illustrates how businesses of all shapes and sizes are strategically employing business aircraft to meet existing challenges, create new opportunities and gain a competitive advantage in today’s challenging marketplace. But, most important, it discusses the ease with which you too can climb on board and add time to your life.
“Time value increases when companies must react with speed and agility to rapidly
changing market conditions. It’s not the time to be waiting for the next airline flight.”
Steven M. Hankin, CEO, Sentient Jet
Around the globe, companies with their own business aircraft are traveling when and where they want to with speed, schedule agility, safety and security.
There is a vast range of aircraft to choose from, and each manufacturer and model presents unique advantages. Acquire the aircraft type that works best 80% of the time, says David Wyndham, vice president, Conklin & de Decker Associates Inc., a consultancy firm specializing in business aircraft cost analysis. For the remaining 20%, Wyndham adds, select an alternative solution such as charter, a jet card or fractional ownership in a different aircraft type.
Turboprop Economy, Small Jet Speeds and Midsize-Jet Comfort
Piaggio’s fast turboprop Avanti has a unique avant-garde design with rear-facing engines that leave the sound behind and keep the cabin quiet. With a top speed in excess of 450 mph—faster than many small jets—and a 1,600-statute-mile range (the distance from southern Florida to northern Maine), this twin turboprop sips fuel at astonishingly low rates, which translates to appealingly low operating costs. In addition, the Avanti can land on runways that would be a compromise for many jets, which means owners gain access to hundreds of additional smaller airfields. And, despite its small aircraft cost, the Avanti features a surprisingly large, comfortable, nine-passenger stand-up cabin that rivals those of many midsize jets. These combined features have been a huge factor in its popularity.
FLIGHT LOG >> Bridges Equipment Ltd.
You’ll find a lot of dust devils and oil rigs in Odessa, Tex., but what you won’t find are a whole lot of airline gates. Odessa, headquarters for Bridges Equipment Ltd., a 70-employee, one-stop shop for heavy equipment for the oil and gas industry, is a long distance from almost anywhere. Dallas is a five-and-a-half-hour drive away, and Houston is eight hours. Although there are a few daily flights to both hubs, Jimmy Bridges, the company’s vice president, says, “It will still take you all day to get to Stillwater, Oklahoma.”
A business aircraft purchased three years ago put Bridges back in the customer pipeline, and it’s been an investment that continues to pay off. Now he’s flying his Piaggio Avanti more than 300 hours annually and turning the daylong treks to Stillwater, Rock Springs, Wyo., Grand Junction, Colo., or Tyler, Tex., into one- or two-hour door-to-door hops. “We can do in a day what we had to plan over three or four days before,” says Bridges. He likes the speed, the range and, best of all, the economics.
“It’s a whole lot more feasible to do these trips,” he adds. “We can pick up a customer and take them to see a drilling rig that we’re putting together. It gives you a lot greater ability to sell. It’s been a big plus in our business because time is of the essence whenever you’re talking about the equipment we deal in. Downtime on a drilling rig is very expensive.”
Working around rough economic conditions, Bridges has been using the fast, large-cabin Avanti to prospect. “Especially with the times the way they are, you’ve got to reach out a little bit further; you’ve got to do a little more—explore new business opportunities or respond to customers’ needs,” he says. “The plane has been a big asset. It’s so convenient and allows us to get there and do what we have to do and then get back.”
Global aerospace giant Bombardier is widely known for its commercial airliners, but it also builds nine business jets under three major brands: Learjet, Challenger and Global. Learjets, known for their impressive speed and performance, include the light and nimble Learjet 40XR and the slightly larger and longer-legged 45XR. Next is the midsize Learjet 60XR with transcontinental range. A new all-composite, super-midsize Learjet 85 will debut in 2013.
The large-cabin Challengers are renowned for their spacious wide bodies and 6'1" stand-up headroom. The highly popular Challenger 300 establishes a new benchmark for cabin size, comfort, capability, economy and affordability. The Challenger 605, with seating for up to 12 passengers, is a larger, intercontinental-range jet. Bombardier developed the Challenger 850 based on the popular CRJ200 regional airliner. Designed for roomy transcontinental travel with as many as 15 aboard, the Challenger 850 features a significantly longer cabin than its siblings.
As global business has intensified, Bombardier created its Global series of ultra-long-range aircraft. The Global 5000, with its huge cabin, provides the ultimate in comfort and convenience on nonstop flights as long as ten hours, such as those from Dallas to Moscow or Tokyo to London. For the longest missions, the Global Express XRS features seating for 14 passengers in arguably the largest cabin of any corporate aircraft. It also boasts an impressive 7,500-statute-mile range, which encompasses virtually half the planet.
“These [business] jets are not an option. They give us mobility. You have to be
where the action is. You have to respond to new opportunities.”
An East Coast building materials supplier
FLIGHT LOG >> A Consumer Products Retailer
When a small Texas family opened its ma-and-pa country store in San Antonio a century ago, they never dreamed the business would evolve into a giant consumer products retailer with suppliers nationwide and 300 stores across Texas and Mexico. Innovative management and a company plane have been vital to the company’s growth, explains company aviation manager Marc Miller. For more than half the company’s history, he says, “Business aircraft have been essential to maintaining a competitive advantage.”
On a typical day, the company’s Bombardier Challenger 300 could be headed to either U.S. coast, Canada, Mexico or Central America with as many as nine passengers aboard. Most stops are at any of the thousands of smaller local airports in towns like San Angelo, McAllen, Waco and Big Springs, Tex., all far from commercial airline hubs but minutes from stores and suppliers. “We can take a group of people, do a day’s work in Texas or Mexico, and have them back home the same evening,” notes Miller. Eliminating unnecessary overnights saves highly productive company time, and it means workers can be back with their families. “It really improves their morale and the quality of their work,” he explains.
Every individual’s time has value, management contends. “If it’s an important business requirement, you go,” says Miller. “It could be a team of folks accessing a new market, meeting with suppliers, negotiating a real estate deal or overseeing new construction—virtually anything needed to meet the growth goals of the company and enhance our efficiency in this competitive business.”
Miller emphasizes that in the current environment, companies must do more with fewer people and less time. A business aircraft allows one to accomplish that. “It puts you back in control,” he says. “It means you can go when and where you need to with the utmost efficiency. You can meet eye to eye, and that builds trust.”
As the market leader with the largest number of business jets in service, Cessna has introduced more companies to business aircraft benefits and value than any other manufacturer. The Cessna fleet starts with the Mustang, the lowest-cost entry-level jet on the market, easily flown by owners themselves. Then come the small-cabin Citation CJs; the ever-popular Citation Encore+; the top-selling midsize Citation XLS+ with stand-up cabin; and the larger transcontinental-range Citation Sovereign, which can seat as many as 12. Topping the Citation line is the super-midsize Citation X. Cruising at more than nine-tenths the speed of sound, it is the world’s fastest civilian jet and cuts coast-to-coast flight time by nearly an hour.
Speed, Performance, Global Range and Amazing Economy
Dassault, well known for its military-fighter-jet heritage, focuses on performance and economy with every business jet model it designs. The newest twin-jet midsize Falcon 2000LX offers nonstop New York-to-Moscow range, yet it can depart and land on relatively short runways, resulting in an unusual combination of performance and economy. The larger-cabin, longer-range, three-engine Falcon 900LX can fly the 5,500-statute-mile trip—equivalent to the distance from Paris to Beijing—nonstop. Incorporating renowned Falcon short-field performance, it can negotiate short runways in high-altitude airports and still fly long distances without compromise. All the newest models also incorporate advanced flight-deck instrumentation, including synthetic and enhanced-vision and head-up guidance systems.
Dassault’s most recent introduction is the wide-body Falcon 7X, which flies faster, farther and higher than its siblings and takes full advantage of Dassault’s fighter-jet performance optimizations. With its “fly-by-wire” control system, the first in any business jet, the 7X boasts enhanced efficiency, added capability and reduced operating costs. It can fly nonstop from Tokyo to New York and, with a range of 6,900 statute miles, passengers can touch down virtually anywhere on Earth with a maximum single refueling.
FLIGHT LOG >> Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories
The quality of life in Pullman, Wash., is hard to beat, says Dr. Edmund O. Schweitzer. Pullman is home to Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL), a leading equipment supplier to electric utilities worldwide. While rural living has its merits, Schweitzer points out that when it comes to reaching customers, Pullman, an hour-and-a-half drive to Spokane’s airline terminal, is well off the commercial travel grid.
“There was a big overhead just getting out to see people. It was extremely inefficient,” says Schweitzer. Over a decade ago, he realized that a business jet could help power up sales. Starting with a Cessna Citation Bravo, SEL’s fleet quickly expanded into an air force that includes a midsize Cessna Sovereign and two ultra-fast Citation Xs. The jets take off daily to multiple destinations, and nearly half the company’s employees plus many of its customers are frequent flyers.
“We’re five minutes from the local airport,” Schweitzer says, “and in less than four hours we can be in Washington, D.C. Plants in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, and another near Chicago are only two to three hours away, versus a day or a day and a half by airlines. Being able to get out and see people and get people here to be with us—to share problems, ideas and opportunities—is really important.
“We get on the plane and spend a lot of time coming up with new ideas. There’s more than one new product that was spawned from a couple of engineers flying somewhere in our business airplane,” Schweitzer adds.
First delivered in 1964, the Beechcraft King Air is the most prolific turbine-powered business aircraft of all time. More than 6,500 have been produced to date. Renowned for exceptional performance, reliability and efficiency, the current models include the King Air 90 series, the B200 series and the impressive B350, which can fly 2,000 statute miles and carry up to 12 passengers.
Two Hawker light jets also have proven to be extremely popular, including the Hawker 400, which is fast and efficient, and the newer Premier 1A, which is the first corporate jet certified with a composite fuselage. Unique design and construction help rank the Premier as one of the quickest and most fuel-efficient small-cabin jets. Designed for single-pilot operation, it is particularly favored by owner-pilots.
Mainstays of the Hawker fleet and currently ranking as the top-selling midsize business jets, the Hawker 750, 850XP and 900XP are best known for their large, comfortable cabins and excellent performance.
The top-of-the-line Hawker 4000, which recently entered service, is one of the most advanced super-midsize business jets available, incorporating an all-composite fuselage and the latest avionics and engine technology. NetJets was the launch customer, and it offers the newest Hawker through its fractional program.
FLIGHT LOG >> Klein Tools
From its humble start in 1857 with a broken pair of pliers in a Chicago blacksmith’s shop, Klein Tools, still family run, has today evolved into a global supplier to the construction, electrical, mining and telecommunications industries.
Few companies know more about selecting the best tool for the job than Klein, which lists more than 3,800 items in its catalog. That’s why the Lincolnshire, Ill., company acquired its first business aircraft some 30 years ago. “We have plants scattered in a lot of remote areas that don’t have access to airline service,” explains company president Tom Klein.
Today, the company operates a Dassault Falcon 50, available to anyone in the company with a legitimate travel need. When a flight is booked, empty seats are offered to others going to the same location.
“We use our Falcon just like any tool, to increase productivity and help our company grow,” says Klein. “The Falcon allows us to go anywhere in the world. We are able to work for the entire flight, we get to airports that are much closer to our destination, and we can hit multiple locations in one day. That would be impossible if we didn’t have a plane. It allows us flexibility.”
There are enormous intangible benefits, Klein points out. “Executives have told me they really appreciate that they can do their meetings and be home to spend the night with their families,” he says. That translates to greater productivity. “Those guys sitting on that airliner are basically wasting time,” says Klein. “If we did not have the plane, our sales probably would have been 10% lower than they are today.”
One of the most prolific and successful manufacturers of commuter, regional and short-haul airliners, Embraer entered the business aircraft marketplace with some outstanding creations. The Legacy 600 business jet, based on the highly successful Embraer ERJ 145 airliner, offers a huge 50-foot cabin, larger than those of most ultra-long-range business jets, yet it carries a midsize jet’s price tag together with remarkably low operating costs.
Rugged airliner construction and sterling performance, economy, reliability, maintainability and comfort are the hallmarks of the highly successful Legacy 600 and the family of unique Embraer business jets that followed. This includes the brand-new, very light Phenom 100 and small-cabin Phenom 300, the midsize Legacy 450 (arriving in 2013), the Legacy 500 (arriving in 2012), and the large, intercontinental-range Lineage 1000, which is modeled after the popular ERJ 190 airliner.
FLIGHT LOG >> Stony Point Group
As one of the country’s leading crisis management professionals and an expert in restructuring, cost-cutting and creative financial designs, Ken Glass acknowledges that the ability to travel in a time-effective way has been critical to his success. “Mobility is key,” explains Glass, chairman of the Stony Group, a private equity firm based in Asheville, N.C., and the owner of aerospace conglomerate TECT.
His companies collectively own three Hawker Beechcraft airplanes: a Premier, which flies 500 hours annually; a King Air turboprop; and a piston-powered twin-engine Baron. “We could not operate effectively without these planes,” he states, noting that they provide the ability to reach suppliers, customers and company facilities across the nation with speed and flexibility.
Glass views the airplanes as essential tools for engineers, technicians, software specialists and key managers. Often the flights are round robins, stopping in multiple locations, which enables the company to make the best use of personnel and customer time by getting employees back the same day and eliminating the enormous waste associated with commercial travel.
For example, when three Thomasville, Ga.-based IT specialists flew to Wichita, Kans., using the Premier, picked up associates and headed directly to a plant in Everett, Wash., to complete an essential systems upgrade, the flights saved two critical days for the entire company. Every minute counts, says Glass, and every minute saved is money in the bank. For Glass, these airplanes are “meeting rooms in the air.” For him and his employees, travel time spent on board becomes invaluable productive time. “We would not have been as successful without the airplanes,” he says.
Fractional provider Flight Options ordered 100 Phenom 300s, and deliveries began this year. According to Flight Options Vice President of Sales and Marketing Jay Heublein, the new Phenom 300 may be an airplane that defines its own category and changes the perspective on small-cabin aircraft in terms of capability, styling, comfort and amenities. It also promises to be one of the most fuel-efficient light jets. “We are going to bring this product to market at the lowest cost per hour and per nautical mile without giving anything up. It has phenomenal speed, huge baggage capacity, great runway performance and unprecedented range in comparison to similar-sized jets,” he notes.
Kansas City, Mo.-based Executive AirShare is the first fractional company to operate the smaller Embraer Phenom 100. President and Chief Operating Officer Keith Plumb says the Phenom 100 will be a hot performer and will offer impressive fuel economy. He feels assured that the Phenom, which is built for intensive utilization, will be highly reliable. Plumb’s operation is focused on the Midwest, where the jets will be making frequent short trips throughout Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. He is confident that, when compared to other alternatives, these new light jets will “fly faster and higher for less money and without any compromise to comfort.”
JetSuite, a recent start-up and a uniquely modeled West Coast-based aircraft ownership and charter business, has 60 standing orders for the Phenom 100. JetSuite’s Chief Executive Officer Alex Wilcox, well known for his role in the launch of Jet Blue and India’s Kingfisher Airlines, believes the Phenom 100 will be the perfect low-cost charter alternative for the Seattle-Cabo San Lucas-Denver triangle. Flights of an hour or two will compete favorably with car or airline alternatives that consume a half to a whole day for similar trips. With low operating costs, high reliability and superior comfort, the Phenom 100 passes his test with flying colors.
“Especially with the times the way they are, you’ve got to reach out a little bit further; you’ve got to
do a little more—explore new business opportunities or respond to customers’ needs.”
Jimmy Bridges, Vice President, Bridges Equipment Ltd.
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