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Frequent Fliers Climb into the Cockpit of Private Plane

Ms. Kornegay, who owns and operates two hotels in Mount Olive, N.C., drives to nearby Mount Olive Municipal Airport and flies her personal private plane across the state to an airport near Charlotte. The entire trip takes one and a half hours. "That adds up to an additional five hours each week that I can be doing something else," she says.

Self-piloting doesn't make sense for every business owner, but can be a rewarding experience. If you want to become a private pilot, flight instruction typically costs up to $9,000, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association in Frederick, Md., and there is the cost of the plane, the initial investment, plus annual fees for storage and maintenance.

The Federal Aviation Administration estimates the number of pilots with a private license has decreased by about 14% in the last 10 years.

Allowing some entrepreneurs who travel frequently the ability to travel when the time is right, makes sense when you consider the time savings from avoiding long drives and airport delays. "There's not necessarily a monetary case to be made for it," says AOPA spokesman Chris Dancy. "But when you start to add in lost productivity and the additional hotel and rental car expenses, aviation makes a much stronger case than trips using airlines."

The AOPA estimates that the cost of flying an aircraft provides the most return for flights that are less than 500 miles.

About 85% of companies that use personal aircraft are small or midsize companies, estimates Ed Bolen, president and chief executive of the National Business Aviation Association in Washington.

As CEO of McColla Enterprises Ltd. in Topeka, Kan., which owns the Street Corner mini-convenience store chain, Mr. La Colla flies to visit his 50 franchise locations in places such as Danbury, Conn., Bloomington, Minn., and Nashville. "I just wanted to swing through those cities but doing that commercially would be miserable," he says.

Mr. La Colla says his time in the air costs about $100 an hour, including the fuel, oil, repairs and engine wear. So flying time from Topeka to Chicago, which is just shy of 600 miles and takes more than two hours each way, costs almost $500 round trip. That trip on the commercial airlines averages about $150.

But that doesn't account for the extra five hours of agony Mr. La Colla would have to spend driving to/from a commercial airport, passing through security, and the inconvenience of traveling on the restricted schedule of the airlines.

Businesses also get the benefit of the expense write-off and depreciation of a company owned private plane. General aviation provides for thousand of jobs and creates greater efficiencies for all air travelers.

Source: The Wall Street Journal 

Topics: Business Private Jet General Aviation Private Jet Legislation