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Supplemental Lift

by David Wyndham 1. March 2008 00:00
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If your needs are either short term lift or a limited number of hours; charter, jets cards, or fractional ownership all offer a modest number of flight hours without the costs associated with a whole aircraft. When do these make sense?

It is not unusual for major maintenance to be combined with refurbishment or upgrades. These can take an aircraft out of service for a few months. Charter or jet cards can provide the short term lift with no commitment beyond the hours purchased.

You need simultaneous aircraft on occasion. A couple of times per month you find multiple requests for the aircraft that overlap. Rather than refuse or force one of your clients to reschedule, it would be nice to have that second aircraft available. Provided this isn't routine, charter, jet cards, and fractional all might make sense.

You have a mission requirement that falls outside the capability of the current aircraft. Supplemental lift providers have a variety of aircraft available, allowing you to tailor an aircraft to fit an infrequent, but important mission.

When does each of these make sense? While you need to evaluate your individual needs, here are a few rules of thumb to consider:

Charter works well if there are a number of well qualified providers with the aircraft types you need close to your location. With charter, you pay the entire time the aircraft is flying, whether occupied or not. Charter costs are minimized with round trip travel. Charter can make financial sense anywhere from a few hours to about 100 hours per year.

Jet cards are a form of pre-purchased charter. Some of these programs are aligned with a major fractional company such as NetJets, FlexJets or Flight Options. Most offer one-way or round trip pricing. Typical cards start with 25-hours of flying, with 10 hours offered. Jet cards make financial sense from 25 to 100 hours.

A fractional share may be a way to bridge the inability to meet current demand with growing into enough demand to justify a whole aircraft. For example, what if your current aircraft is essentially at full utilization given its type of operation and mission requirements? But, demand is increasing and you'd really love 80 - 120 hours more per year. That is insufficient to justify another aircraft acquisition, but fractional may be just the ticket. Fractional makes financial sense in the 50 to 300 hours per year realm with the caveat that the upper end may be as low as 200 hours for getting into whole aircraft ownership.

As fractional contracts are for five years, this form of supplemental lift has significant commitments compared to charter and jet cards. Also, your use needs to be predictable and stable otherwise you can end up with a quarter, an eighth, and a sixteenth share all under different contact start dates. Given the long lead times on new turbine aircraft, fractional may just get you to the new aircraft delivery.

Any utilization over 150 to 200 hours per year should include whole aircraft ownership as an option. Adding another aircraft will have different costs versus getting your first. You need to run the numbers and consider all your options.

What are your options? Are you using any of these supplemental lifts and what have your experiences been? Does it fit your missions profile? Your comments here will help others with guidelines.

For a list of companies which can help you fulfill your requirements use the Globalair.com Aviation Directories - Charter section


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