Getting down to business

January 1, 2010

The controller at Connecticut’s Hartford-Brainard Airport delivered the clearance like a tsunami: “Meridian Six-One-Zero-One-Golf, cleared to Martin State Airport via direct Hartford, Thumb, Yoder, Calverton, Gedic transition J174, Zizzi to the Waterloo 085-degree radial to V308, Nottingham, direct.” The usual altitude, frequency, and transponder info followed. I actually got that part.

In reading back the clearance—one that didn’t at all resemble what I had filed or what I had received on a nearly identical route a week earlier—I replaced almost all of the intersection and transition names with something like “an intersection that I didn’t understand.” Fortunately, this was not a New York Center controller in the midst of an airline push, so he took pity on me and went back through the clearance, spelling the confusing intersections and transitions. I spent another 10 minutes in the airplane consulting the charts to map it out and program the flight management system. Welcome to the Northeast!

Of course, I’ve flown in the Northeast for decades, but the difference this time was me as single pilot in a turbine airplane wanting to ply the flight levels. The price to be paid includes complex routings quite unlike those I’m used to at lower altitudes.

Ah, the life of the corporate pilot, I thought to myself. But what a great use of a business airplane. I picked up a passenger at Martin State, not far from AOPA’s headquarters at Frederick, Maryland. From there it was a quick 300-nm trip with a nice tailwind to Hartford for a meeting with the CEO and his staff at a large aerospace company. We left Maryland late morning, had lunch and the meeting in Hartford, and were home in time for a late dinner.

A few weeks after that October flight, the National Business Aviation Association released a new study called Business Aviation—An Enterprise Value Perspective. Conducted by the respected NEXA Advisors group, the study attempts to understand whether the use of business aircraft brought value to the S&P 500 companies from 2003 to 2008. NEXA looked at a variety of financial results for these top companies and then examined their use of business aircraft to see if any conclusions could be drawn. The results were compelling and show a strong correlation between corporate success and the use of business aircraft.

Among the findings is that the average annual revenue growth on a market capitalization-weighted basis was 116 percent higher for users of business aircraft. Average annual earnings growth was 434 percent higher for business aircraft users; 253 percent unweighted. The weighting attempts to account for the size of the company; larger companies are more likely users of business aircraft. There are a host of other financial measures that show how business aircraft users outperform nonusers, including an average annual earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) growth 81 percent higher for users, 54 percent higher unweighted. Additionally, the “user companies” were found at or near the top on a number of other nonfinancial measures, including several “best of” lists across many industries.

The report acknowledges the importance of proper board oversight of the use of business aircraft to assure that these tools are used to drive financial results and not just perks for the CEO. In addition, the report notes that business aircraft are not usually a substitute for airline travel, but instead a complement to air carrier trips.

Among the most important uses of a business aircraft is the ability to facilitate critical transactions quickly—beating the competition to the deal and then maintaining customer interaction at frequencies not feasible via the airlines or other means of travel.

While the NBAA report focuses on the use of turbine aircraft, many small-business owners have discovered the advantage of even a light general aviation airplane. As profiled in the November 2009 issue of AOPA Pilot (“Flying the Friendly Skies,”), Brad Pierce uses his Cirrus SR22 to beat the competition to the deal all throughout the Southeast for his restaurant supply and consulting business. Since the publication of our story on him, he has testified before Congress about the advantages of business aviation and why the government should stop bashing an industry that employs more than 1 million people with a collective payroll of more than $53 billion and generates one of our few remaining positive trade balances.

In the same issue, I reported on how a light turbine airplane—such as the Piper Meridian—can quickly and efficiently move a small team among far-flung small cities in the Midwest (“Turbine Pilot: Time Machine,”). As one executive at an S&P 500 company noted in the NBAA study, “Many of our plants and customers are located in regions not served by commercial aviation. Business aviation allows these companies to remain competitive, providing jobs and a tax base for their communities.” The government should be encouraging the responsible use of business aviation, not discouraging it.

For more on how a business aircraft might serve your company, see the NBAA Web site.

Editor in Chief Tom Haines frequently uses his Beechcraft Bonanza A36 for business flights throughout the East. E-mail the author at [email protected]; or follow him on Twitter.

Thomas B. Haines

Thomas B Haines | Editor in Chief, AOPA

AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines joined AOPA in 1988. He owns and flies a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. Since soloing at 16 and earning a private pilot certificate at 17, he has flown more than 100 models of general aviation airplanes.