5 Steps to Finding the Right Plane for You

Sam Wolf

07.20.11

It’s about time for our family to replace one of our cars.  I don’t relish the process, but I enjoy the results.  As we start to look at what’s available and for what price, we also begin examining things such as fuel efficiency, safety, maintenance and seating.  Of course, I also want a car that offers a nice driving experience.  Frankly, the more it reminds me of an aircraft, the better!

When we look at cars we take into account a number of factors. The same should be true when we examine potential aircraft.  And like cars, there’s always a buzz from our friends or from slick advertisers that bring certain models to mind.  But because an aircraft works for Company A doesn’t mean in any way that it would be a good fit for Company B.  Just because there’s a really great ad that makes an aircraft look great and fun, doesn’t mean that it would be a realistically viable option for you.

So what are some the things to consider as you shop for a new or used aircraft?  This list is a summary and eventually you’ll drill down into more and more specificity, but this will help you begin the process:

  • First of all, what are your travel needs?  Where do you need to go?  How often do you fly and how much is that currently costing you in terms of both direct travel cost (tickets/charter etc.) and indirect cost (lost productivity,  per diem, lodging etc.)   Try to establish whether you need an aircraft that will take you on repeated short trips or regular transcontinental trips.
  • Secondly, and related to the first, how many people do you need to carry on a regular basis?  If 85% of your flights involve less than 4 people, you might not need to invest in the acquisition and operational costs of a 10 seat jet.
  • Third, decide on what features are essential and what would just be “nice to have”.  Is a stand-up cabin a requirement?  Cruise altitude? What type of toilet facilities?  What size door and seating arrangement are preferred?  It’s important to work through these early so that you can focus on aircraft in your search that truly fit the parameters you want in your next aircraft.
  • The fourth consideration is very important and that is performance.  Many people focus on range.  That is, “How far can this airplane take me on a single leg?”  But this is only a partial indicator of performance and is dependent upon things such as prevailing winds, air traffic delays and atmospheric conditions.  You’ll also want to consider speed.   For short hauls (say under 500 miles), a jet may not give you much of an advantage in speed/time over a nice turboprop.  Keep in mind too, that aircraft tend to perform less efficiently in high elevations on hot days.  So it is vitally important to examine the field elevations, weather patterns, and runway lengths from which you will operate your plane.
  • Finally, after reviewing your basic needs, passenger requirements, features needed/desired and performance, consider the basic cost of the available aircraft that seem to generally fit this mold.  At this point, you are not getting too specific, but in a basic sense, what are the costs of the aircraft that can do what you desire.  Be sure to go past acquisition cost and consider operational, maintenance, and training costs.  Purchase price is a “one-time” cost while operating costs occur every time you start the engines.  As your search becomes more specific and starts focusing in on particular planes, you can work with your broker to develop a comprehensive picture of the likely annual cost of the aircraft.

It’s exciting to be in the market for a new or used aircraft.  But it is important to find the right airplane that fits your operational needs and makes solid financial sense.  If we can be of any assistance to you in this process feel free to contact us at CFM: 615-669-9393 or sales@cfmjet.com