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Time to Update Your Aircraft Plan!

by David Wyndham 1. March 2009 00:00
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There seems to be a perfect storm underway that is hitting business aviation quite hard. Even in a normal business down cycle, the business aircraft becomes a target for elimination. This is due to the aircraft being a ready source of quick cash and the image that the top execs are cutting back along with everyone else. But in today's economy, it is worse in part to the debacle of the auto executives, Congress, and Wall Street firms running away from their business aircraft.


This also presents an opportunity to stand up and be counted. If the business aircraft really is nothing more than a perk, then yes, in this economy that perk may not be justified. But I believe that an aircraft can be an essential business tool to a well run company. No one suggests getting rid of the company computers because folks check their Facebook and Twitter accounts during work hours.


A big part of this is to have a strategic plan in place that clearly defines the business justification of the aircraft. If you don't have one, then I suggest you get one going! Depending on the size of your operation it can be a few pages or a substantial document. Regardless, here are some things to include.


Define and Update Your Mission. Do you know what your mission is? I don't mean just the general "safe and efficient transportation" statement but something the aircraft enables you or your company to do that directly ties into the mission statement of your firm. If your mission statement discusses innovation and expansion of your market, then how does the aircraft enable that to be done more effectively?


Does your aircraft fit the mission? Does your aircraft have the capability to get into those short runways near the other operating locations? Does it carry the number of people that make up your marketing, sales, or crisis management team? Did you analyze of all the transportation tools available such as whole aircraft, shared ownership, fractional ownership and charter in order to present a cost effective solution to accomplishing your mission?


Do you periodically review and revise your plan? Do you need to reduce capability? Do you have enough capacity, or too much? What about the strategic vision of your company? Where is the focus and how can the business aircraft effectively empower your company to make the maximum use of the people who need to make the future happen? Rather than panic and get rid of the aircraft, the first move should be to adjust the plan to meet the new realities.


All too often we take favor short term gain over the long term. This is the case with the aircraft. As your competitors dump their planes and "take the bus," are you ready to fly in, make a deal, and fly out? You may not see any results for a year or two, but those that truly use their aircraft wisely and don't bend to the latest whims can meet the future in much better condition.


We've worked on strategic plans like this for several companies.  If you've never done one, it can seem like a daunting task. However, you just take it a piece at a time, get your data and if possible, get senior management to sign off on it. The pay off is in being able to better anticipate and adjust to changes without "shooting from the hip." Like the Scouts always say, be prepared.


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David Wyndham


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