A while back, the heads of the “big three” U.S. automakers were vilified for flying to Washington D.C. in their corporate jets to ask for money from the government. Some said it was a huge and unnecessary waste of money. Small jets were portrayed as extravagant…frivolous toys for the rich and famous. It made all of corporate aviation look bad.
The other day my boss embarked on a trip in his business jet. Although I am not rated to fly it, I was invited to ride along. Three of us (plus the two pilots) left Brewton, Alabama early, headed for an airport in South Carolina where the boss had a site to visit. Distance flown was 390 miles which is a little under an hour in our jet. We cruised at 33,000 feet doing 435 knots which is right at 500 mph. Not the fastest jet in the sky, but even so that’s moving along right smartly.
After a couple of hours on the ground in South Carolina, we left with an additional passenger for Knoxville, Tennessee where we picked up one more person. This leg was 188 miles and it took us just under a half-hour. From there we went down to Lafayette, Louisiana where my boss had another site to visit. We covered the 600 miles in just under an hour-and-a-half.
By 3:00 we were in the air again, headed to Tunica, Mississippi for a mobile home manufacturer’s convention. The 330 mile flight took us 45 minutes.
The boss spent the next morning at the convention, did his business and we were airborne and headed for home by 1:00 p.m. He was in the office by 2:00. The schedule simply could not have been accomplished using the airlines. Many of the airports we used do not even have airline service. Not only that, the boss was able to conduct business in the jet between stops; hence the term “business jet,” which ours is.
Not every business aircraft is a jet. The aircraft used are as varied as the needs of the particular companies that own them. For instance, one company at our home field uses a single-engine Cessna 210 for their business; it suits them well for now. A company that sells flowers to big stores like Walmart and Home Depot uses a twin-engine Beechcraft Baron (as well as a Cessna Citation jet). The ubiquitous twin-turboprop Beech King Air that we operated for a time may be the most popular business aircraft of all time. My own boss also has our helicopter which he considers invaluable.
Some people hire pilots to fly them around. Others fly the plane themselves, like the attorney I know who commutes from Pensacola to Mobile, Alabama every workday in his own four-seat Mooney 231.
General Aviation (i.e. everything that is not the airlines) is often misunderstood by people. They do not see the value in using an aircraft for business purposes. But an aircraft is an incredible tool that lets smart businessmen use their time efficiently and get more things done than would otherwise be possible. We proved that this week. It was fun for me to be a part of it.