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Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Airplane?

by David Wyndham 1. October 2007 00:00
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With sailboats, it is called "Five-foot Fever." You get a sailboat, enjoy it for a few years, and then you start thinking, if I only had a bigger boat, I could. . . It can be the same with an aircraft. Of course, a bigger aircraft is more comfortable, and can carry more, and often can fly farther. But at what price?

With piston aircraft, speed is the lure. Several high performance piston airplanes are claiming some form of "fastest production single." Folks will trade up, and spend some serious money for an extra 10 or 20 knots. 200 knots seems much better than 190, never mind that it mean all of five minutes over a 300 NM trip.

With cabin class aircraft, especially jets, it is cabin and range. One light jet, which has about the biggest "light jet" cabin, is less popular because of its limited range. Another jet, a mid-size (barely) cabin can jet coast to coast but is faulted for its relatively small cabin. Curing both will cost a lot more money!

I'm working with a client right now who is very cost conscious. OK, it is the CFO who is very cost conscious. But, while the CEO realizes the value of private aircraft travel, that person does not want more aircraft than is appropriate for their business mission. How do you keep your desires in check and yet not fall short in what is needed?

1. Analyze your missions carefully. Where and what and when and how often? Focus on both what you can do and what you can't do. Key is how often you can't do a particular type of mission. Separate "nice to have" and "must have" criteria.

2. Don't focus on the 99th percentile mission. Oft times it is better to go with an aircraft that meets 95% of your requirements and use supplemental lift for the rest. It works both ways - it may be less costly to charter for short trips and keep the global machine for the global trips.

3. Weigh your options with a view to "value." Compare performance and costs against your missions to get the best value. If a 10% increase in costs gets you a 15% increase in cabin or range, and you'll use that extra capability, then the more costly option may be the preferred option.

4. Take emotion out of the equation. Use measurable parameters. If your main mission requires X seats and Y miles, then those are your requirements. A "spacious" cabin is not a requirement; while a cabin that is 15% larger than your current aircraft's cabin is a measurable requirement.

5. Make sure the decision makers know their options. For example, 98% of the trips for a $6 million price tag may, or may not, be preferred over the 100%, $13 million alternative. Also make sure the options include all the costs, not just acquisition.

It is important to be able to make a fully informed decision. You may elect to go "bigger is better" but don't delude yourself in thinking there is not much of an associated cost with that capability. If it is needed, then it is worthwhile.

There are several factors to making a decision on which aircraft is what you want and will fit your flight profile. We would like to know what your factors are. Please reply below.


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